By Sean Crose
On the surface of things, it’s easy to assume that late heavyweight great Rocky Marciano and current pound for pound king Floyd Mayweather have nothing in common other than a shared sport and nearly identical undefeated records. It’s not always wise to assume, however. For although both men are completely different in some ways, they share some unique commonalities (aside from their ring records) which actually bind their stories together.
Let’s start with the differences, however. For starters, each man represents a different generation. Marciano fought in the 1940s through the 1950s. Mayweather, on the other hand, has fought since the 1990s. What’s more, his career has run much longer than Marciano’s did, nearly a full decade longer.
Marciano was an Italian American kid from Brockton, MA who ended up building a home in Florida – a blue collar northeasterners’ dream! Mayweather, on the other hand, is an African American from Grand Rapids, MI who has gone on to live like a king in Las Vegas.
Then there’s the styles. Marciano was pure warrior, a man who somehow always managed to give better than he took. His first victory against Joe Walcott, for instance, is a textbook example of an eleventh hour comeback. Mayweather, on the other hand, is pure magic in the ring. He hits and doesn’t get hit – at least not effectively. Furthermore, he employs speed and a form of physical discipline previously unseen in the sport.
This, of course, has led to Mayweather being accused of being a “boring” fighter. And while some of us really appreciate watching the man at work, it goes without saying he’s never been engaged in a bout anywhere near as thrilling as the wars Marciano had with Ezzard Charles. Still, dominant is dominant and both Marciano and Mayweather can rightfully lay claim to that particular description.
There’s other things they can lay claim to as well, though, such as the fact that both have been accused of cherry picking. There may actually be some truth to this particular charge, as Marciano certainly wasn’t fed a murderer’s row of competition early in his career (unless names like Bill Hardeman and Gilbert Cardone conjure up images of dangerous foes), and Mayweather hasn’t exactly challenged himself in some of his more recent bouts, either.
What’s more, each man has a controversial win on his record. For Marciano, that win was against Roland LaStarza, who was 37-0 when the two up and comers met in March of 1950. Marciano got a split decision, but it was one of those calls that can still furrow brows to this day.
As for Mayweather, his very questionable victory came against Jose Luis Castillo, who was a seasoned and skilled ring veteran when they met in March of 2002. Like Marciano, Mayweather pulled off a split decision win – a fact which has aggravated more than a few people over the years.
Here’s the thing, though – both Mayweather and Marciano rematched the opponents some thought they had lost to. Floyd clearly outskilled Castillo in their second fight while Rocky sent LaStarza through the ring ropes the second time around. Say what you will, Mayweather and Marciano are both on the record “going back into the fire” to prove their mastery.
The similarities don’t end there, though. For both champions have been charged with beating other great fighters when those fighters were past their primes. While it’s true Marciano’s greatest opponents were all “over the hill” when he faced them, only Joe Louis could be said to have been a shell of his former self. On top of that, Rocky took on those who were in front of him, and he really can’t be blamed for the age of his most notable foes. Mayweather, on the other hand, stands a bit harshly accused himself. Manny Pacquiao, for instance, may not have been in his prime when they met, but he was certainly good enough to beat a great and prime Tim Bradley just a year before his match with Mayweather.
It’s also worth noting that both Mayweather and Marciano share a history of having problems with people they worked with outside the ring. For Marciano, the trouble proved to be manager Al Weil, who he publicly parted ways with in 1957. As for Mayweather, his relationship with promoter Bob Arum over the years has been nothing short of tumultuous, their war of words outside the ring sometimes proving more rollicking than those battles Mayweather has engaged in inside the ropes.
Of course if Mayweather beats Andre Berto next week – as he’s expected to, he and Marciano will share an identical record. And if Mayweather wishes to break that record they may end up even sharing something else, for Rocky seriously toyed with the idea of coming out of retirement to face Ingemar Johanssosn after he had hung up the gloves in 1956.
In the end, 49 may prove to be just a number for both men.