1. September 23, 1952, Municipal Stadium — Rocky Marciano KO 13 Jersey Joe Walcott I, World heavyweight championship
Setting the Stage: The 38-year-old Walcott was boxing’s new Cinderella Man. After years of struggle and disappointment Jersey Joe captured the heavyweight championship on his fifth try with a single right uppercut to Ezzard Charles’ jaw in their July 1951 title match, their third such bout. Eleven months later he retained the title against Charles via razor-thin unanimous decision but the betting public still didn’t believe as the defending champ entered this fight a 9-to-5 underdog — only the fifth such time in heavyweight championship annals to that point.
That’s because the short, squat and powerful Marciano was 42-0 (37 KOs) and riding a seven-fight knockout streak that included an eighth round stoppage of the beloved Joe Louis. They figured the 29-year-old’s sledgehammer blows would pound the science and steel from the veteran trickster.
What Happened: Defying every conventional wisdom, Walcott stormed out of his corner and met fire with fire. A swooping left hook one minute into the fight decked Marciano for the first time in his pro career and from that point forward he used his skills to build a commanding rounds lead (8-4, 7-5 and 7-4-1) entering the 13th. But through all his adversity, Marciano applied pressure and hammered away at all targets. Early in the 13th, as Walcott backed toward the ropes and set himself to throw a right, Marciano beat him to the punch with perhaps the hardest short right hand in boxing history. Walcott’s head snapped violently and his body suddenly became inert. Referee Charlie Daggert only had to count 10 but could have counted to 1,000 had he so chosen.
The world had a new heavyweight champion and given the dramatic give-and-take action it couldn’t have unfolded in a better place.
Photo / Jeff Julian-Fightwireimages.com and THE RING
Lee Groves can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Groves is a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, West Virginia. He is a full member of the BWAA, from whom he has won five writing awards, and an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. and the author of “Tales From the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics.” To order, please visit Amazon.com or e-mail the author to arrange for autographed copies.