"When Boxing Mattered," Chapter Eleven - The Fifties, Part I. Blog #0011

Chapter Eleven –The Fifties Part I Chapter Eleven deals with the heavier weight classes in the Nineteen-Fifties. The chapter opens with a discussion of Ezzard Charles, a truly great, but underappreciated pugilist who won the lineal heavyweight title by beating the incomparable Joe Louis. He lost the title in 1951 by a knockout to Jersey Joe Walcott, whom he had beaten twice before. Jersey Joe at 37 became the oldest man to win the heavyweight crown. He defended successfully against Charles, and then on September 23, 1952 he took on Brockton, Massachusetts challenger Rocky Marciano. Out-boxing Marciano for the first twelve rounds and ahead on all the score cards, he was suddenly knocked senseless by Marciano's fabled "Suzi-Q" punch and Rocky became the new heavyweight champ.  Rocky Marciano was a popular champion. After making successful defenses against Walcott, he then beat Ezzard Charles, Roland La Starza and Don Cockell; he fought his last fight, knocking out Archie Moore before retiring with a perfect 49-0 record. Floyd Patterson came out of Brooklyn, New York and became the first Olympic Gold Medalist to win the World Heavyweight Championship. He was also the youngest to win that title; he was twenty-one years old when he knocked out Archie Moore in 1956. Patterson defended successfully against fringe contenders Hurricane Jackson, Roy Harris, Olympic champion Pete Radamacher, and Brian London, before losing the title to Swedish heavyweight Ingemar Johanson in 1959. One year later he knocked Johanson cold and became the first man to regain the heavyweight crown. Johanson’s reign was brief, but he was a colorful and popular champion. The rubber match between Patterson and Johanson was a wild affair, again won by Patterson. The light heavyweight division was dominated by one man, Archie Moore who won the title from Joey Maxim in 1952 and held onto it throughout the decade, despite his two losing forays in the heavyweight division against Marciano and Patterson. Sugar Ray Robinson took the middleweight title from Jake LaMotta in 1951 and lost it to Randy Turpin, regained it, retired in 1952 and came back to knock out Bob Olson in 1955, lost it to Carmen Basilio and regained it and lost to Gene Fullmer and regained it. These fights dominated the middleweight division in the Fifties. The Welterweights started off the decade with the great Cuban, Kid Gavilan as champ. Gavilan was succeeded by Johnny Braxton, a crime syndicate managed fighter, who was then succeeded by Tony DeMarco, and he was beaten by Carmen Basilio. Basilio briefly lost it to Saxton and moved up to Middleweight. Virgil Akins, Don Jordan and Benny Kid Paret round out the decade.

More excerpts from this book coming soon! Stay tuned.

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