Tuesday night’s “Learn from the Fight” Zoom lesson with Athena School of Karate looked at three matches from 1952. Rocky Marciano, now in the top contender spot for the World Heavyweight, took on one more challenge providing Lee Savold with his 153rd fight. Archie Moore continued his campaign to the Light Heavyweight Championship as he faced fellow contender, Jimmy Slade. Finally, Sugar Ray Robinson decided to go up a weight division yet again in a bid for the Light Heavyweight Championship against current champion, Joey Maxim.
Rocky Marciano versus Lee Savold 13.02.1952
We covered Savold previously when looking at Joe Louis’s unsuccessful return path to the world title. This would be Savold’s last fight. He was best described as a slugger, standing 6’1″ to Marciano’s 5’101/2″ and weighing 200lbs to Marciano’s 1861/2lbs. Marciano had come down with a virus a week before this bout and went into the fight filled with penicillin against doctor’s orders. The bout was unnecessary, as Marciano was now in the top contender spot and his fight with Jersey Joe Walcott was assured, but his management decided this match with the old veteran was just what he needed for a last moment sharpener. As it turns out, he would fight two more times before challenging for the title.
The fight was a completely one-sided affair with Marciano not allowing Savold an inch. Savold tried to create distance but it was consistently eaten up by Marciano’s swarming attacks. The Brockton Blockbusters evaded Savold’s ponderous jabs to fight on the inside, usually leading with left hooks. From the first bell, it was noted, Marciano was catching Savold hard in the head with this particular punch. Marciano rarely, if ever, threw jabs or straight rights in this fight. His punches were all circular by design, hooks, uppercuts and his famous overhand right – Suzi-Q. This last punch began landing in earnest in round four. By round six everyone had seen enough. Savold was retired by his corner. Both his manager, Billy Daly, and the Pennsylvania State Athletic commissioner retired Savold for good. The fight had been a complete slaughter.
Archie Moore versus Jimmy Slade 27.02.1952
1952 was an extremely important year for Archie Moore. He mixed in both the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions. He began the year by avenging his loss with Harold Johnson with unanimous decision. Johnson was a heavyweight as was his next opponent, Jimmy Slade. Moore had put on weight to fight both of these fighters and was level at 181lbs with Slade. Slade hailed from Norfolk, Virginia and was born on 14th August 1926. He was a journeyman who would retire with a 38-23-6 record with a 17 per cent knockout average. However, Slade was 10 years younger and had 19 fights under his belt with Moore at 124.
The fight was very much a fight of experience over youthful energy with Moore getting the victory via unanimous decision. Cards were 55-45, 56-44, Ref 55-45.
Sugar Ray Robinson versus Joey Maxim
With his position in the middleweight position clear, Robinson was being touted as the greatest pound-for-pound boxer. He had completely dominated the welterweight division for four years to point where he went up a weight category because there was no one left to fight. Now, it would appear, the same thing might be said about the middleweight division. Jake La Motta had been dethroned, ending the six-bout feud between the two once and for all. He had toured Europe beating everything they had to offer. His upset at against Randy Turpin had been swiftly rectified within 60 days with a knockout. This was then followed up with his last serious rival, Rocky Graziano, who had earned his own return spot after demolishing 20 opponents, being knocked out in round three. Robinson was on top of his game. What was the next big match?
It seemed only logical in camp Robinson to go up a weight division again and have Robinson be the first welterweight world champion to win the world light heavyweight crown. The current title-holder was the Jack “Doc” Kearns’ managed Joey “The Machine Gun” Maxim. Maxim had won the world title against Freddie Mills in 1950. Prior to this his opponents had been notable heavyweights such as Britain’s Henry Cooper who he outpointed and the now current world heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott, who had lost two out of three of their confrontations with the last defeat being a controversial one. His fight against Sugar Ray Robinson would be his second official title defence, although he had fought a total of 11 times since winning the title. He had won nine of these 11 fights and only lost two to Ezzard Charles, the first of which was for the heavyweight title. Maxim had only been stopped once in entire career by slugger Curtis Sheppard.
The fight had been scheduled for the Yankee Stadium, New York on 23rd June, but torrential rain had postponed it. Now it was hit with a heat wave. June 25th remains amongst the hottest days in New York history. Maxim was 175lbs and Robinson was around 18lbs lighter. The plan from Maxim’s side was to wear Robinson down who would more likely fight more from the outside and use more of the ring.
For 10 rounds Robinson set a hard pace. More than winning by points he do so with a flourish and with showmanship, all of which counted against him. Maxim, losing on points, was playing a long game. He wasn’t going to be knocked out by Robinson, having taken the best punches from much heavier fighters. In the blistering heat he wasn’t going to chase Robinson much either. He was going to let his opponent punch himself out or tire himself to the point where a knockout would be easy.
As it turned out round 10 saw the referee Ruby Goldstein collapse before either of the fighters due to the extreme heat and he had to be replaced. In the ring it was noted that the temperature, under the lights, soared to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. In rounds 11 and 12 Robinson was still the far more active of the two but was beginning to miss and show a lack of balance. By round 13 he looked drunk and landed face forward by the end of the round having wildly missed with a punch, totally exhausted. Sheer willpower got back up as the bell rang and he walked to the wrong corner. He was delirious, having lost 16lbs in the heat. Provided he stayed on his feet for the next two rounds, he could win the match. However, he had succumbed to hyperthermia and for the only time in his career, he was stopped losing to a technical knockout. Maxim, for his own efforts, had lost 10lbs during the bout.