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Rocky Marciano Vs Sonny Liston – What If? Part 1 of 3 Legendary Mythical Fights

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Rocky vs SL

Rocky Marciano is the only undefeated Heavyweight World Champion in boxing history. He held the title from September 1952 to April 1956, when he retired at the age of 32 with a record of 49-0, 43 KOs. During the course of his title run, Rocky defeated the likes of Jersey Joe Walcott, Ezzard Charles and Archie Moore among others.
So how good was Marciano really? If you asked this question 35-40 years ago, Rocky probably would ranked as a consensus top 3-5 all-time Heavyweight. Bert Sugar ranked him #14 all-time pound for pound of all-time. Contemporary opinions of Marciano seem to be a little more tempered with Rocky still highly respected but not included among the likes of Ali, Louis, and Dempsey, and Johnson at the very top of the all-time Heavyweight list.

To help shed light on the question of Rocky’s greatness or lack thereof, we’re going to put in him with a series of three legends from the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s: Sonny Liston Joe Frazier and Larry Holmes respectively: to see how he fares. To compensate for his lack of size, we’re going to assume Rocky’s added 10-15 pounds of muscle to his 5’10’’ frame during the course of training so that he now weighs roughly 200 lbs. Rocky’s first test will be fellow Heavyweight destroyer Sonny Liston. The Liston who destroyed Floyd Patterson twice was a monster, one of the most intimidating Heavyweights ever seen in the ring. At 6’1’’ and 215-220 lbs., he would still enjoy a substantial size advantage over a bulked up Rocky. So, let’s get started……………
Fight night has arrived and over 30,000 rabid fans have gathered at Boston’s Fenway Park to witness this compelling matchup between two of the most dangerous punchers in Heavyweight history. The Las Vegas odds makers have declared Marciano a slight 6-5 favorite, however, the majority of experts are leaning towards Liston, believing he is simply too big and strong for Rocky. Liston enters the ring to a chorus of boos from Rocky’s hometown crowd but it doesn’t seem to faze him. Marciano, in contrast, enters to thunderous applause from the Fenway faithful. Referee Ruby Goldstein calls the fighters to the center of the ring and issues the final instructions. The bell rings for the start of round one.


The size differential is noticeable early as Liston looks mammoth compared to Marciano. Both fighters open up cautiously over the first minute of the fight, each respectful of his adversary’s punching power. Liston begins to work his jab and Rocky’s nose is already bloodied by the close of the first round. Liston controls the second round as well as Rocky has no answers for the powerful and long Liston jab. With 30 seconds remaining in the round, Liston finds Marciano with a crushing left hook which sends him to the canvas. Rocky rises at the count of 7. Marciano is seriously hurt but manages to survive the round.

By the third round, barely a whisper can be heard from the Fenway crowd as their hometown hero is absorbing a savage beating. Rocky is now suffering from a nasty cut over the left eye as he continues to eat a steady diet of jabs and power shots from Sonny. A Liston right rocks Marciano again as the round comes to a close. Liston continues to dominate in round four but now has a bewildered look on his face which seems to say: “I’ve hit this guy with everything but the ring post, how is he still standing?” Rocky is nothing if not courageous as he keeps coming forward in the face of severe punishment. Marciano lands his first telling blow late in the round, a terrific right which stuns Liston and backs him up.
Liston looks tired and frustrated as he comes out for the 5th round. Marciano just continues to come forward and is starting to find the range with his power shots. Marciano lands a wicked left to Sonny’s ribcage which causes him to visibly wince as the round comes to a close. Marciano continues to gain momentum over the first two minutes of round 6. However, Liston catches him coming in with a thunderous right late in the round. Marciano’s legs quiver. Sonny pursues him to the ropes, however, Marciano fires back catching Liston with a big left hook which backs him off as the round comes to a close.

By the start of round 7, Marciano is fully recovered and continues to effectively pressure a tiring Liston. However, by the end of the round, his face is becoming a bloody mask from the cut over his left eye. By the middle of the 8th, Marciano can barely see. Liston tries to finish him landing brutal power shots but Marciano refuses to fall. Liston shakes his head in disbelief as he returns to the corner.

Rocky’s corner is unable to stem the tide of blood between rounds. His manager, Al Weill, tells Marciano he has only one more round and better get it done! With Weill’s edict ringing in his ears, a determined Marciano comes out for round 9. Liston lands a number of power shots early in the round, however, they lack the steam they had early in the fight. Rocky is simply walking through them. With 1:00 remaining Marciano lands a tremendous overhand right which sends Liston to the canvas. An ecstatic Fenway crowd screams wildly! Liston rises at the count of 7 but looks defeated and exhausted. One final left hook closes the show dropping Sonny to the canvas again. Liston doesn’t even try to get up. Marciano has pulled off an improbable knockout victory!

Marciano wins KO 9!

Next: Marciano squares off against “Smokin” Joe Frazier

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