Rocky Marciano meets Ezzard Charles again just 3 months after their first encounter. Charles gave Marciano arguably the second hardest fight of his career during their first encounter and it was an absolute classic.
Rocky Marciano was the undefeated champion who won the World Heavyweight title from Jersey Joe Walcott in 1952 via a 13th round KO. It would become one of the most famous knockouts in the history of boxing but also one of the best come from behind wins as well. Marciano had a rematch with Walcott the following year however if anybody was expecting a close fight the were sadly disappointed as Marciano ended the career of Walcott with a 1st round KO. Marciano then defended his World title against old foe Roland LaStarza, the man who in 1950 came closer than anybody to beating Marciano. Their first encounter ended in a split decision with Marciano lucky to get the win so in the rematch Marciano made sure it would not go to the judges and in round 11 the referee called off the slaughter awarding Marciano a TKO win. Ezzard Charles was up next in June 1954 with both men putting on a spectacular back and forward affair with Marciano edging Charles on the scorecards after 15 rounds. Although nobody doubted Marciano had won, Charles and his corner felt they deserved a rematch because they had provided the Champ with his hardest title defense to date. Marciano’s manager agreed and the rematch was set for 3 months later. Marciano entered the rematch with a perfect 46-0 record with 40 KO’s.
Ezzard Charles was a very talented fighter but a somewhat forgotten World Heavyweight Champion nowadays. Charles had turned pro in 1940 as a middleweight giving him 7 more years experience than Marciano. Charles had also fought arguably harder competition than Rocky having beaten men the likes of Charley Burley, Joey Maxim, Archie Moore, Jimmy Bivins and Joe Baksi. In 1949 following the retirement of Joe Louis, Charles was handpicked by the NBA (National Boxing Association) and Joe Louis to face off against Jersey Joe Walcott for the vacant World Heavyweight title. Charles would beat Jersey Joe over 15 rounds to claim the title however only the NBA recognized Charles as the champion while other boxing commissions and unions refused to acknowledge Charles as the Champion since the process to determine a new World Champion leading up the Charles v Walcott fight was not deemed “fair” to other possible heavyweight contenders. It mattered little however as Charles proved to be a dominant champion who in 1950 would score a clear cut decision win against former Champion, Joe Louis, earning almost universal recognition as the true World Champion. Following a handful of successful title defenses, Charles would surprisingly lose the World Heavyweight title to Jersey Joe Walcott in 1951 when he was shockingly KO’d in 7. Charles challenged Walcott in 1952 but was unable to win back his old title, losing a 15 round decision. The remainder of 1952 and 1953 were good years for Charles as he picked up a handful of wins while suffering only a couple losses to Nino Valdes and Harold Johnson. Due to his recent run of success Charles was picked to be Marciano’s 3rd title defense however Charles would lose a very close fought decision bringing his career record to 85-11-1 at this point. Charles was extremely confident he would win the rematch…
Charles started strongly winning the first round but it was all down hill from there for the “The Cincinnati Cobra”. Marciano scored a knockdown in round 2 which resulted in Charles being far more cautious for the remaining rounds and seemingly less interested in trading blows as he was during their first encounter. Marciano was guilty of bending the rules as he hit Charles after the bell, head butted and shoved his palm into his opponents face but he was never caught or admonished. In round 6 Marciano suffered one of the worst injuries in boxing when his entire nose was split wide open down the middle. Charles made the nose his target in round 7 and even opened up a secondary cut above Marciano’s eye however he was unable to put Rocky away. In round 8, with fear that the fight might be stopped on cuts, Marciano went after Charles with renewed vigor and slowly but surely beat Charles down with heavy blows to head and body. Charles went down for a second time thanks to a straight right and although he got back to his feet, Marciano finished him off a short while later thanks to 6 unanswered hooks to the head. Charles rested on his knees following the 3rd knockdown but he had nothing left and was unable to pull himself up further to beat the 10 count.
It was shortly after this fight when Ezzard Charles started noticing the early warning signs which would later be diagnosed as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or ALS, a type of motor neurone disease which would eventually claim his life in 1975. Charles retired in 1959 with a 95-25-1 record.