On This Day In 1955: When “The Rock” Went Out Perfect At 49-0

It was the great Rocky Marciano’s final fight, yet nobody knew it for a good few months. The unbeaten heavyweight king, 48-0, met light-heavyweight great Archie Moore, 149-19-8, at Yankee Stadium in New York on September 21, 1955. Marciano was making the sixth defence of the crown. Moore, who had put enormous effort into a campaign that called for Marciano to make a defence against “the logical contender, Archie Moore,” would provide the man who was (officially) seven years his junior with a stern test.

Marciano weighed a fraction above the 188 pound mark, while Moore came in at 188 on the nose (how small the big men of the division really were back then). After a comparatively eventless opening round, “The Ol’ Mongoose” struck in round two. A sharp, straight counter right hand snapped into Marciano’s legendary chin and down “The Rock” went. On his knees for an instant, Rocky bounced up at the count of two. Moore was unable to put the finishing touches to his handiwork.

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The fight raged on, with four more knockdowns featured; all of them suffered by challenger Moore. Finally overwhelmed, after giving his all and refusing to quit, Moore was counted out in the ninth round. Marciano was now 49-0(43) and his next fight would be against one of the following four contenders: Bob Baker, Floyd Patterson, Nino Valdes, Tommy Jackson.

Only no next fight came.

Marciano, whilst very much on top, decided, famously, to call it a career (officially announcing his retirement from the sport in April of the following year). Ever since, that 49-0 ledger has grown and grown in legend. No other heavyweight champion has ever matched it, much less beaten it (Larry Holmes at 48-0 before his upset, controversial decision loss to Michael Spinks, came closest, in 1985.) Marciano’s legacy will live forever.

But what if he had fought on? Patterson was fast as lightning, but would his chin have held up to Rocky’s bombs? Valdes? He’d have been a heavy underdog against Marciano, as would both “Hurricane” Jackson and Baker. Rocky may well have got to 50-0, maybe even 51-0. But he’d had enough, his family wanted him to quit. And he did.

And he never came back. Marciano never went away, either. The beloved former champ is always in the thoughts of fight fans. And this will never change. In terms of sheer popularity, Rocky resides in a league of his own.

As for Moore, he fought Patterson for the vacant crown, with the younger, faster, snappier-punching Patterson being way too much for him, scoring a 5th round KO in November of 1956.

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