By Ken Hissner: Can you imagine what a “war” this would be between two great heavyweight champions like Rocky “The Brockton Blockbuster” Marciano and “Iron” Mike Tyson if they were to meet?
Marciano, from 1947 to 1955, compiled a 49-0 record with 43 knockouts and 6 title defenses. Tyson, from 1985 to 2005, compiled a record of 50-6 with 44 knockouts with 10 defenses.
Marciano was 5’10 ½” with a 68” reach, and Tyson was 5’10” with a 71” reach. In my opinion, Tyson would have been the quicker of the two, but his peek-a-boo defense would be hit by Marciano on his arms, and before you knew it he could hardly keep them up.
Even after retirement in an exhibition with Muhammad Ali, the latter remarked on that. Was this a fight that got to who first? You be the judge.
In the amateurs, Marciano was 10-4 with 8 knockouts. Tyson was 48-6 with 38 knockouts. In the Olympic trials, Tyson lost in the finals to Henry Tillman and again in the Box-offs.
Marciano turned pro in March 1947, winning his first sixteen bouts by stoppage. In December 1949, Marciano knocked out Carmine Vingo, 16-1, in six rounds. Vingo went into a coma after this bout but recovered though never to fight again.
In Marciano’s next fight in March of 1950, with a 25-0 record, he won a split decision over Roland LaStarza, 37-0, at Madison Square Garden. Scores were 5-5, 4-5, and 5-4. In the 5-5 by referee Jack Watson under New York’s supplemental scoring system, he had Marciano winning 9-6. LaStarza was down in the fourth, and Marciano lost a point in the eighth due to a low blow.
In July of 1951, Marciano knocked out Rex Layne, 34-1-2. Two fights later, he stopped former world champion Joe “The Brown Bomber” Louis, 66-2, in eight rounds, dropping him twice with the second putting him through the ropes. It was later said Marciano cried in his dressing room since Louis was a hero of his.
Marciano earned a title shot in September of 1952 against NBA World champion “Jersey” Joe Walcott, 49-18-1, at Municipal Stadium, Philadelphia. At the end of twelve rounds, scores in favor of Walcott were 7-4, 8-4, and 7-5. Just 0:43 into the thirteenth round, Marciano hit Walcott with a crushing right knocking him out.
In the Walcott dressing room, Hank Cisco from Marciano’s camp told me he heard the ring physician say, “this man should never fight again. There’s a bone broken under his eye, and the first good punch and he will be knocked out.”
The mob controlled Walcott and put him into the rematch. In May of 1953 at Chicago Stadium, some seven months later, Marciano knocked out Walcott at 2:25 of the first round. In September, it was the rematch at the Polo Grounds, New York, with LaStarza, 53-3, and it was a war for ten rounds with Marciano ahead by scores of 7-3, 5-5, and 6-4. In the eleventh round, Marciano knocked LaStarza through the ropes ending the fight.
In Marciano’s third defense in June of 1954 at Yankee Stadium, he defeated former champion Ezzard “The Cincinnati Cobra” Charles, 85-10-1, by scores of 8-5, 9-5, and 8-6.
Three months later, in a rematch at the same facility after seven rounds, Marciano was well ahead by scores of 5-1 and 6-1 twice, but Charles had split Marciano’s nose down the middle, and the ring physician gave him one more round before stopping it. At 2:36 of the next round, Marciano knocked Charles out!
In May of 1955, in his fifth defense Marciano at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco, he knocked out Commonwealth champion Don Cockell, 66-11-1, at 0:54 of the ninth round!
Four months later, at Yankee Stadium, Marciano, in his final defense against light heavyweight champion Archie “Old Mongoose” Moore, 149-19-8. Moore floored Marciano in the second round. Marciano came back to drop Moore twice in the sixth, once in the eighth, and again in the ninth round at 1:19. Marciano was ahead after the eighth round by scores of 5-2, 7-1, and 5-3.
Marciano retired after this match ending his career, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, with a 49-0 record with 43 knockouts and six defenses. On August 31, 1969, Marciano was killed in a plane crash a day before his forty-sixth birthday.
In May of 1986, Tyson’s knockout streak was stopped after defeating James “Quick” Tillis 31-8. Just seventeen days later, he defeated Mitch Green, 16-1-1.
Six fights later, in November of 1986, Tyson got his title fight against WBC champion Trevor Berbick, 31-4-1, stopping him in the second round at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas.
Tyson would go on to defend his title nine times, starting by defeating WBA champion James “Bonecrusher” Smith, 19-5, in a unification bout. He stopped former WBC champion Pinklon “Pink” Thomas, 29-1-1, IBF champion Tony “TNT” Tucker, 34-0, and stopping 1984 Olympic champion Tyrell Biggs, 15-0.
In Tyson’s next fight in January of 1988 at the Convention Center in Atlantic City, he faced former champion Larry “The Easton Assassin” Holmes, 48-2. At ringside was former champion Muhammad “The Greatest” Ali and future US President Donald J Trump. As Ali was introduced into the ring, he tapped the gloves of Holmes and walked over to Tyson’s corner, and whispered something in his ear. In the fourth round, Tyson dropped Holmes twice, ending it at 2:55 of the round.
Next, Tyson stopped former champion in WBA champion Tony “TNT” Tubbs, 24-1, in Tokyo, Japan, in two rounds. Next, in June of 1988, he faced former IBF champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Michael “Jinx” Spinks, 31-0, back at the Convention Hall. At 1:33 into the first round, Tyson put Spinks into retirement, knocking him out!
Next, in February of 1989, was former European champion Frank Bruno, 32-2, at the Hilton Center, Las Vegas, Nevada. In the fifth round, it was all over with another stoppage by Tyson. Five months later, back at the Convention Center, stopping Carl “The Truth” Williams, 22-2, at 1:33 of the first round.
In Tyson’s tenth defense in February of 1990, he returned to Tokyo. His opponent was James “Buster” Douglas, 28-4-1. Tyson was 37-0. In the eighth round, Douglas went down in the final ten seconds by a Tyson uppercut. Douglas was saved by the bell. In the ninth round, it was Douglas who had Tyson out on his feet in the final twenty seconds of the round.
After nine rounds, scores were even at 87-86, 82-88, and 86-86. In the tenth round, after a minute and down went Tyson. He was up at nine when the referee called a halt at 1:22 of the round.
Four months later, Tyson was back in the ring against his nemesis from the Olympic Trials, Henry Tillman, 20-4, at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, with Tyson knocking him out after 2:47 of the round.
In September of 1996, Tyson, 44-1, re-won the world title at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, stopping WBA champion Bruce “The Atlantic City Express” Seldon, 33-3, stopping him at 1:49 of the first round.
Tyson was matched with former champion Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield, 32-3. By the eleventh round, Tyson was finished losing his title to Holyfield at 0:37 of the eleventh round.
Seven months later, in the third round, Tyson was cut, claiming it was from a head butt. He went crazy biting the ear of Holyfield. Instead of referee Mills Lane disqualifying Tyson, he called time out and went to the commissioner at ringside, who told him he couldn’t stop a fight of this magnitude. When the fight continued, Tyson bit off a piece of Holyfield’s ear while in a clinch, leaving referee Lane no other alternative but to disqualify Tyson at the end of the round.
Tyson went on to win four fights plus two no-contests. In June of 2002, a shell of himself, he challenged world champion Lennox “The Lion” Lewis, 39-2-1, at The Pyramid in Memphis, Tennessee, and was stopped in the eighth round at 2:25.
Six months later, Tyson knocked out Clifford “The Black Rhino” Etienne in 0:49 of the first round back at The Pyramid. He was stopped in his next two fights, first by Danny “Brixton Bomber” Williams, 31-4, in four rounds and in his final bout to Kevin “The Clones Colossus” McBride, 32-4-1, from Ireland, living in Brockton, Massachusetts, the home of Rocky Marciano.