Taking a look at the best heavyweight boxers from a different era, the one ruled by fighters and duels between greats like Ezzard Charles, Rocky Marciano and Jersey Joe Walcott. Here are the top 5 heavyweight fighters from this time period.
1. Rocky Marciano
You can’t argue with success, and so how can you argue with a 49-0, 43 KOs record. “The Brockton Blockbuster’s” reign as heavyweight champion established him as one of the fiercest, toughest, hardest-punching fighters of all time. Many call him crude, yet his style was actually a clever way to overcome his stubby 67″ reach. They say he was undersized, but doesn’t that just mean all his opponents were bigger guys? The Rock’s record speaks for itself, and he was the defining heavyweight of his era.
2. Ezzard Charles
Charles is a character worthy of admiration. Stymied in his campaign to win the Light Heavyweight Championship, he puts on a little weight and almost instantly captures the NBA’s version of the heavyweight crown. His sterling career includes inflicting most of the losses suffered by Jimmy Bivins through his career; wins over Joey Maxim, the later version of Joe Louis and Archie Moore; a 2-2 record with Jersey Joe Walcott, and giving Rocky Marciano all the champ could handle in two separate fights. Pretty much the only laurel that eluded this man was becoming the first light heavyweight champion to challenge and defeat the reigning heavyweight champ.
3. Roland LaStarza
The closest Marciano ever came to defeat was not at the hands of Ezzard Charles or Jersey Joe Walcott. Instead, it was Roland LaStarza who took him to the edge. Indeed, many think LaStarza defeated Marciano, and the fight remains controversial to this day. The difference was that LaStarza was the best he would ever be for the first fight. When it came time for the rematch three years later, Marciano had greatly improved. The main reason why LaStarza did not get as much exposure during his era as he should have was that Charles and Walcott, the two main heavyweights of the early 1950s, were busy fighting each other or Marciano. LaStarza found himself sidelined and unable to prove himself against anyone except “The Brockton Blockbuster.”
4. Jersey Joe Walcott
Jersey Joe is one of those figures who reached the top through sheer perseverance. True, as Walcott grew older he continued to perfect his skills. However, the main reason for his success is that as he slowly-but-steadily improved, Ezzard Charles deteriorated. He met an old, rusty Joe Louis in 1947 and 1948. Walcott probably earned a win in the first bout, and was on his way to doing so in the rematch when Louis knocked him out. He went 2-2 with Ezzard Charles, won the title, and was then beating Marciano when the Rock crushed him with a legendary right. The rematch was over in less than three minutes. Outside of title fights, he went 1-2 with Joey Maxim, the light heavyweight kingpin. Walcott has always struck me as one of those guys who doggedly hung on until a better man faltered, and then claimed the title. That puts him in the same league as guys like Oleg Maskaev today – worthy, but hardly noteworthy.
5. Joe Louis
When Joe Louis came back after World War Two, he was a very different man from the one who scored a come-from-behind knockout against Billy Conn in 1941. True, he fought a little during the war years, but in truth the man was on the shelf for five years. That was longer than Muhammad Ali’s exile. Yet he had enough to struggle through a close decision against Jersey Joe Walcott. It’s true he should have lost that fight, just as it’s true that Walcott was beating him in the rematch. The ultimate truth is that Louis’s power and finishing skills were enough to win the rematch and cement the end of his first title reign. After two more years on the shelf, Louis returned against Ezzard Charles. Simply to survive an encounter with Charles at that point in Louis’s career was an achievement. Rocky Marciano famously gave Louis a beat down, but in between Louis scored a solid win over Jimmy Bivins.
Honorable Mentions: Jimmy Bivins; Gus Lesnevich; Charlie Burley; Archie Moore, Joey Maxim, Harold Johnson.