Is 22-0 Oleksandr Usyk the Reincarnation of 49-0 Rocky Marciano?

By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent

22-0 Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine, currently the undisputed World Heavyweight champion, has boxed 241 rounds in his 22 pro bouts between 2013 and 2023. Rocky Marciano, ‘The Brockton Blockbuster’, from Brockton, Massachusetts, went 49-0 in his pro bouts between 1947 and 1955 over 241 rounds.

Usyk seems the closest world heavyweight champion to Rocky Marciano in the 69 years since Marciano last defended his title against Archie Moore, who described Marciano’s punches as feeling like getting hit by a blackjack or rocks. Usyk’s 170 punches landed on Fury are a seeming reincarnation of Marciano, the smaller underdog fighter who gets inside and wins on the bigger fighter.

Marciano, like Usyk, was a come forward power hitter with superb technical boxing skills to back his power up. Usyk, like Marciano, was a smaller heavyweight, a cruiserweight. Marciano, who also wrote a book on pro bodybuilding, had a chiseled frame which was a cruiserweight by today’s standards. Marciano’s frame generated considerable power, which the smaller man requires to get inside on a taller, larger heavyweight with superior reach. Usyk is also a cruiserweight, though unlike Marciano he naturally added weight on to bulk up to heavyweight.

Marciano tangled twice with Ezzard Charles, as Usyk did with Anthony Joshua in comparison to today. Marciano, like Usyk, faced every type of opponent available. Marciano’s victory in the Charles rematch looks similar to Usyk’s victory over Daniel Dubois. Technically, both Usyk and Marciano would win on points against Joseph Parker. Usyk versus Deontay Wilder would resemble Marciano versus Jersey Joe Walcott I. or Marciano versus aging ex-champion Joe Louis (though the Marciano bout with Louis was not a title bout, Marciano’s knockout win did spell the ending of the career of the 66-2 balding Louis). Usyk versus Joe Joyce or Zhilei Zhang would resemble Marciano versus Roland LaStarza. Usyk versus Filip Hrgovic is similar to Marciano’s victory over Don Cockell.

Styles do make fights. Comparisons are not always obvious. Usyk’s victor over Tyson Fury appeared to be a combination Billy Conn’s first bout with Joe Louis, excepting the ego came from Fury, not Usyk. Conn would have beaten Louis if he would have settled for a points win over 15 rounds and not changed his game plan to go knockout hunting. Sort of like Bernard Hopkins versus Kelly Pavlik, Usyk stuck to his game plan and was intimidated by Fury’s clowning psychological warfare tactics, nor baited into exchanges because of them. Fury looked the taller part of a Jess Willard, but 12 rounds is not an extended rounds bout such as Jack Johnson faced in his Havana bout with Willard, ‘The Pottawatomie Giant’, which lasted 26 rounds of a scheduled 45 before Johnson went down in the sun.

Usyk is a top quality fighter in the modern era like Terence Crawford, whose bouts are rare but top flight when they do occur. The key point is Usyk, like Marciano, has unified the heavyweight titles, and eliminated the heavyweight circus. With more than one world heavyweight belt at stake, the question has been answered as to who the true world heavyweight champion is. Fury may have believed with the World Boxing Council belt he won from Wilder he was the true champion. However, history may view it differently.

Usyk, like Marciano, is to be taken seriously in terms of technical ability and commitment to his training ethic. Marciano was a serious, disciplined athlete who ran eight miles a day in addition to his strict training and dietary regimen. Usyk will fight Fury against anywhere, apparently. There are those who have called Usyk versus Fury a robbery in both directions. Form this reporter’s viewpoint, it did not appear so. Usyk’s victory, and ring generalship, where clearly superior and his win clear cut. Like Joe Joyce versus Zhilei Zhang I and II, if Fury does not change his tactics, get serious, and approach the rematch with a clear game plan, he may go the way of Archie Moore in his title bout with Marciano, knocking Rocky down, but ultimately getting knocked out himself. Usyk, like Marciano, is not an opponent you play with or to be taken likely, a perception Fury still has not registered in his mind.