Publish date:
Updated on

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.


FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!


France to surrender

With Paris fallen and the German conquest of France reaching its conclusion, Marshal Henri Petain replaces Paul Reynaud as prime minister and announces his intention to sign an armistice with the Nazis. The next day, French General Charles de Gaulle, not very well known even to more

The Battle of Bunker Hill

During the American Revolution, British General William Howe lands his troops on the Charlestown peninsula overlooking Boston and leads them against Breed’s Hill, a fortified American position just below Bunker Hill. As the British advanced in columns against the Americans, more

Watergate burglars arrested

In the early morning of June 17, 1972, five men are arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate, an office-hotel-apartment complex in Washington, D.C. In their possession were burglary tools, cameras and film, and three pen-size tear more

Drake claims California for England

During his circumnavigation of the world, English seaman Francis Drake anchors in a harbor just north of present-day San Francisco, California, and claims the territory for Queen Elizabeth I. Calling the land “Nova Albion,” Drake remained on the California coast for a month to more

Watergate burglars arrested

Five men are arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. Senate investigations eventually revealed that President Richard Nixon had been personally involved in the subsequent cover-up of the break-in; additional more

North Vietnamese reoccupy Ap Bia Mountain

U.S. intelligence reports that an estimated 1,000 North Vietnamese troops have reoccupied Ap Bia Mountain (Hill 937), one mile east of the Laotian border. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces had fought a fierce battle with North Vietnamese troops there in May. The battle was part of more

Cyd Charisse dies

Cyd Charisse, who shot to Hollywood stardom as the graceful, long-legged dancing partner of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire in classic Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musicals such as Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Brigadoon (1954) and Silk Stockings (1957), dies of a heart attack on this day in more

Bridge collapses, killing workers

On this day in 1958, a bridge being built to connect eastern and northern Vancouver in western Canada collapses, killing 59 workers. The bridge, known as the Second Narrows Bridge, was finally completed in 1960 and, in 1996, it was renamed Ironworkers Memorial Bridge to more