Rocky Marciano vs. Roland La Starza

Rocky Marciano and Roland La Starza fought each other on two separate occasions, the first time in 1950 both as undefeated contenders and the second in a heavyweight championship fight in 1953. Rocky won both fights, the first by a narrow split decision and the second via technical knockout. The first fight is regarded as one of Marciano's closest fights, and the second was declared 1953's Fight of the Year by The Ring.[1]

Rocky Marciano vs. Roland La Starza
Marciano sends La Starza through the ropes in the 11th round of their championship fight
DateMarch 24, 1950 and September 24, 1953
VenueMadison Square Garden and Polo Grounds, New York City
Title(s) on the lineNYSAC, NBA, and The Ring heavyweight titles (1953)
Tale of the tape
Boxer United States Rocky Marciano United States Roland La Starza
Hometown Brockton, Massachusetts The Bronx, New York
Pre-fight record 44-0 (39 KO) 53-3 (26 KO)
Height 5 ft 10 in (178 cm) 6 ft (183 cm)
Weight 185 lb (84 kg) 185 lb (84 kg)
Style Orthodox Orthodox
Recognition NYSAC, NBA, and The Ring heavyweight champion No. 1 Ranked contender

First fight edit

The two men first fought each other in a scheduled 10 round fight on March 24, 1950, at Madison Square Garden. At the time going into the fight, both men were young and undefeated rising stars, garnering much public interest from boxing fans. Marciano's record going into the fight was 25–0 with 23 knockouts and La Starza's was 37–0 with 18 knockouts.

The fight saw both men's clashing styles, with Marciano being the aggressor attempting to knockout his opponent, while La Starza put his footwork and counter punching to work in an attempt to neutralize Rocky's pressure. The fight was very close and went the distance, with the final scorecards reading 5–4, 4-5 and 5-5 respectively. This could have resulted in the fight being declared a draw, but New York had a rule that allowed the referee to award one extra point in order to break ties, and awarded the point to Marciano on account of his aggression and scoring the fight's only knockdown (a right hook floored LaStarza in the 4th round). The split decision victory was one of Marciano's closest fights during his entire career.[2]

Interlude edit

After the fight both men went their separate ways and continued to rise through the ranks. Marciano scored knockout wins over several top contenders including former champions Joe Louis and Lee Savold, before taking the world heavyweight title from Jersey Joe Walcott in 1952.

After his first defeat, La Starza went on to win 16 more fights, and lost two (both of which he avenged, leaving Rocky as the only one of his opponents he still had yet to beat). In 1953 he defeated top contender Rex Layne which earned him a title shot against Marciano later that year. It would be the champion's second title defense after a winning a rematch with Walcott earlier that year.

Title fight edit

The championship fight took place on September 24, 1953, at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan. Marciano was favored 4–1 to defeat his old rival. La Starza started off the fight well, cleverly boxing while mostly on the retreat from the ever approaching champion, and effectively clinched when he got too close. Rocky started off in awkward fashion, missing often while gunning for an early knockout, possibly suffering from ring rust having only fought one professional round during the entire year leading up to the fight.

At several points La Starza complained that Marciano was fouling, and the champion even lost the 6th round due to this, but by the mid rounds the momentum of the fight turned in Marciano’s favor. The champion’s constant pressure began to beat the challenger down, landing heavy blows to the head, body and even La Starza's arms (which made it increasingly difficult to properly defend himself). By round 10, LaStarza was badly beaten, spitting blood and had several cuts on his face, but gamely fought on.

One minute into round 11, a solid left–right combination by the champion sent LaStarza backwards through the ropes and out of the ring. The challenger beat the count, but Marciano went in for the finish, landing several more hard blows before referee Ruby Goldstein stopped the fight. The TKO was the champion’s 40th knockout and the first time La Starza was ever stopped in the ring.[3][4]

Aftermath and legacy edit

LaStarza was never the same after the title fight. The punches to his arms left them so badly injured that he had to get surgery to repair the damaged bones, muscles and nerves. Although he fought nine more times, he lost five of them (including a loss to future Marciano opponent Don Cockell) before finally retiring from boxing in 1961. LaStarza also pursued a career in acting, playing minor roles in several movies and television shows. Although he never achieved the same level of success that Marciano did, he was one of the champion's toughest opponents.[5]

References edit

  1. ^ Ecksel, Robert (September 24, 2016). "Boxing History: Marciano TKO's LaStarza".
  2. ^ Associated Press (March 25, 1950). "Marciano Decisions LaStarza, May Get Summer Title Shot". The Associated Press.
  3. ^ BN Staff (September 24, 2019). "One this day: Rocky Marciano smashes Roland LaStarza in 11 rounds". Boxing News Online.
  4. ^ "A Champ Too Tough For Anyone Around". Life. October 5, 1953.
  5. ^ "Boxer: Roland LaStarza". BoxerList.

External links edit