June 17

This Day in History

Sports

Jun 17, 1954:

Marciano beats Charles

On June 17, 1954, Rocky Marciano successfully defends his heavyweight title against Ezzard Charles at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. It was Marciano’s 47th consecutive victory.

Rocky Marciano, born Rocco Marchegiano, was the oldest of six children raised in an Italian neighborhood in Brockton, Massachusetts. Marciano had starred in football and baseball in his hometown, but never boxed until he was drafted into the Army in 1943. Marciano won a Golden Gloves tournament in 1947, the same year he tried out for a Chicago Cubs farm team. After failing to make it with the Cubs, Marciano decided to fight professionally. He was an unlikely contender--his reach was short, he was small for a heavyweight and he appeared clumsy and out of control in the ring. His trainer, Charley Goldman, taught Marciano to fight out of a crouch that would make him a smaller target, while emphasizing Marciano’s punching power. Under Goldman’s tutelage, Marciano rose steadily through the heavyweight division, winning 24 straight fights between 1948 and 1949.

Marciano made a name for himself as a contender by knocking out Joe Louis with a right to the jaw in the eighth round of a 1951 match. The next year, he won the heavyweight title in Philadelphia by knocking out Jersey Joe Walcott in the 13th round. Walcott was ahead on all of the judge’s cards when Marciano hit him with "Suzie Q," his devastating right hand. In their title rematch eight months later Walcott fared even worse: Marciano knocked him out in the first round. Ezzard Charles, who had beaten Walcott for the title in 1949 only to lose it back to him two years later, then stepped up for a shot at Marciano and the championship.

Marciano, with his devastating right hand, entered the fight a 7-to-2 favorite. Charles showed strength early however, hitting Marciano with his left hook repeatedly. Marciano countered with his right, but early in the fight Charles remained unfazed. The tide turned in the fifth round, when Marciano stopped taking punishment and started hitting Charles with real power. Marciano tried to knock Charles out in the sixth, and again in the seventh, and the two traded punches, both absorbing punishment willingly. Late in the fight, though, Marciano was able to wear Charles down, and he became Rocky’s punching bag, though he would not go down.

Rocky Marciano is the only man to retire as an undefeated heavyweight champion. He was 49-0 for his career.

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This Week in History, Jun 17 - Jun 23

Jun 17, 1954
Marciano beats Charles
Jun 18, 1960
Arnold Palmer wins U.S. Open
Jun 19, 1972
Curt Flood case decided
Jun 20, 1980
Duran outpoints Leonard for welterweight title
Jun 21, 1970
Pele leads Brazil over Italy
Jun 22, 1986
Hand of God helps out Maradona
Jun 23, 1972
Title IX enacted

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