Though he didn’t officially announce he was finished as a fighter for another seven months, Rocky Marciano had his final fight on this day in 1955. “The Rock” smashed a game Archie Moore in a memorable fight, the 32 year old heavyweight king going 49-0, this the most famous ring ledger in history. Still young, especially for a heavyweight, Rocky had nevertheless had enough.
Back problems combined with pleas from his family to call it quits persuaded Marciano to hang -’em up. He was perfect, never beaten, a beloved heavyweight champion who would only gain more and more popularity and respect in his retirement years and, later, in death, Marciano so sorely missed after his untimely passing at age 45, this in a plane crash.
Marciano was tempted more than once (he began training, his plan to come back and fight current heavyweight champ Ingemar Johannson, who had upset Floyd Patterson to take the crown), but he ultimately never risked it. There would be no 50th win, nor would there be any chance of a ‘1’ placed at the end of Marciano’s record.
And against light heavyweight legend Moore, Marciano went out with a bang. The fight took place at Yankee Stadium and a huge crowd showed up to see what would be – not that any fan knew it at the time – Rocky’s final fight. It shows how the sport has changed so much when we look at the weights of the two men. Marciano tipped-in at 188 ¼, while Moore came in at 188 pounds on the nose.
Marciano was one of the toughest, best conditioned, relentlessly powerful heavyweights ever. Moore was a cerebral master, capable of setting traps and of evading what came back at him. In round two, the crafty Moore, nine years the older man, caused a real sensation. Countering a Marciano shot, Moore fired in a beautiful right hand that landed bang on the chin. Marciano went down, for just the second time in his career. Up at “2,” Marciano draped an arm over the top rope and referee Harry Kessler stopped his count at “4,” and wiped Rocky’s gloves. The fight resumed and Moore felt then, as he would feel for the remainder of his days, that Kessler had interfered and had given Marciano valuable time to recover. Moore went for the finish and Marciano held on, this allowing his head to clear. The crisis passed and Rocky, who had a small cut under his left eye, his nose also dripping blood, slowly took over.
Moore outboxed the champion at times, while at others, “The Ole Mongoose” used his “turtle shell” defence to good effect. In round six, Marciano’s strength and power really began to pay dividends in the fight. Twice, Marciano decked Moore, both times with right hands. However, after he got up from the first knockdown, Moore traded ferociously with Marciano, the action truly breathtaking. Moore barely beat the count after being decked the second time.
Incredibly, Moore appeared quite fresh in the seventh, with Marciano having temporarily punched himself out. It had already been a great fight, and now Rocky showed his own greatness in closing the show. Moore, his right eye swelling shut fast, went down again, from another Marciano right hand to the head. Saved by the bell as he was sat on the floor stunned and almost exhausted, Moore made it back to his stool and then he came out for the ninth.
There was no quit in Archie, and he tried to fight fire with fire, with him having brief spells of success. But in the end, two wicked left hooks from Marciano put Moore over again, with him this time being unable to get back up. It was over, Marciano had retained his title for a sixth time. And, as we know, Rocky would never fight again.
49-0(43) – the most famous, the most celebrated record in all of boxing. Marciano went out on his own terms. He went out perfect.