“Always Pull Marciano Out Thay Ass”

RockThe success of Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood’s emotionally charged tale of a novice female fighter, and before it Will Smith’s plausible facsimile of Muhammad Ali, startled Hollywood but encouraged those with the power to look more fondly on film projects with boxing at their heart.  Suddenly, Russell Crowe was able to strike a chord as the Cinderella Man, Sylvester Stallone given the go-ahead to conclude his life-affirming Rocky series and projects detailing the lives of Micky Ward and Joe Louis are at advanced stages with screen figures as popular and talented as Matt Damon and Spike Lee involved respectively.

None of these films, or their illustrious predeccessor Raging Bull, present me with my most memorable cinematic boxing moment though, that honour – if such a word isn’t too over egg the proverbial pudding – is bestowed on Eddie Murphy’s barber shop scene in the film Coming to America.

 Clarence:         “Ohhh, there they go. There they go. Why every time I start talkin’ about boxing a white man gotta pull Rocky Marciano out they ass? Rocky Marciano was good, but compared to Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano aint shit. “ 

Saul:                “He beat Joe Louis’ ass. “ 

Morris:             “He did beat Joe Louis’ ass. “

Clarence:            “Joe Louis was 75 years old when they fought, Joe Louis came out of retirement to fight Rocky Marciano. Joe Louis always lied about his age. One time Frank Sinatra came in here and sat down on this chair. I said Frank u always hanging out with Joe Louis. Just between me and you how old is he? You know what Frank said? Joe Louis is 137 yeas old. 137 years old!”

Even now twenty years on, those few lines make me laugh out loud. Eddie Murphy, who practically invented the idea of one actor playing multiple parts in a film, plays Clarence as an energised, raspy old man and his Jewish regular – the one pulling Marciano out of his ‘ass’ – with a slow, drawling sarcasm. It’s a magical few moments.

As a boxing fan, I’ve grown to appreciate Marciano far more as I’ve aged. I’ve wondered whether this new found affection for the short-armed, bustling, relentless undefeated champion stems from a dislocated version of the old man’s cliche, ‘it were better in my day’ – because Marciano is from an era long before my own – or perhaps, more likely, a complete disengagement with the present, (what is the collective noun for mediocre heavyweights? The Eighties?), herd of over-sized tower blocks that masquerade as contenders. This plethora of lumbering nobodies was always presumed to have the upper hand on their ancestors in any mythical match-up because of their natural weight, reach and height advantage. I’m increasingly beginning to believe few of the current crop use any of those physical advantages to their own..well…advantage.

Watching Bernard Hopkins outthink Antonio Tarver, Roy Jones fizz past John Ruiz and Mike Tyson cut a swathe through a host of giants not so long ago I’ve slowly revised my own opinion on this. A hardened fighter like Marciano, fuelled for 15 rounds of relentless combat, with dynamite in either hand and destructive intent loaded into every blow would, despite his 185 pound frame, have been a nightmare for a whole host of present day heavyweights. True, their power would have been a problem, but Marciano would have proved quicker, been harder to hit, busier and stronger than any of the 40 year old jugs of molasses currently earning a crust as heavyweight contenders.

Imagine what Marciano would have done to static opponents like McCline, Briggs or Ruiz. Imagine the pain he would have inflicted on the rangy, lazy fighters like Kirk Johnson, Audley Harrison or Tony Thompson, contemplate how chinny fighters like Wladimir Klitschko would have contained his energy and constant punching. The Rock is a paradox, both vastly over-rated because of his pristine record, and routinely under-rated because of his relative size to the current custodians of the fractured heavyweight belt.

I’d have love to have seen Hasim Rahman’s 265 pound face, when Marciano was buried to the shoulder in his gut and wailing away at his hips, arms, kidneys, liver and any other square inch of skin he left exposed. I doubt even Rahman could muster an excuse for the defeat I’d venture Marciano would inflict.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. SD says:

    Great read, and that is without doubt a superb comedy conversation in the barber shop.
    Must admit I dont agree with the final prediction of Marcinano cleaning up the division. Im an advocat of modern day training techniques. The progression of every mesurable sport tells us that since the 60’s we run faster, throw further and lift heavier weights. Because of this I think each fighter can only be judged on the era in which he fought. Marciano – an all time great, but the super heavies of today would come out on top.

  2. David Payne says:

    I know what you mean. But I’m not sure you could substantiate the argument that modern day heavyweights actually enjoy any athletic or aerobic advantage from their superior proportions.

    Shannon Briggs, all 270 pounds of huffing muscle holds a portion of the heavyweight title, having knocked someone out in a fight in which nothing happened.

    I’d back Marciano to beat him, which seems ludicrous given the disparity in size but I just wonder how much of the additional weight is actually effective or useful.

    To me, I increasingly believe the weight serves no more purpose than to ensure parity in strength with the other ponderous behemoths with whom they ‘compete’.

    I didn’t say Marciano would dominate, but I’d certainly suggest he’d be a top 5-10 heavyweight, despite his diminutive stature.

    The current crop are pitiful.

  3. SD says:

    Do you think this argument only stands up due to the poor state of the current heavy division, or do you believe, for arguments sake, Sugar Ray Robinson, would defeat (shall we say) Antonio Margarito at Welterweight.

    When considering achievements and all time standing, its one of the most ridiculous statements possible. SRR has a good shout for being the greatest of all time, but could he really “hang” (ooof how American) with the modern fighters. nothing to do with the undoubted ability he had in his era, but simply due to the advances in nutritional science, advances in training techniques and natural progression and improvement of the sports men / women in the field.

  4. David Payne says:

    Not sure of the correlation between SRR v Margarito and the comparison between the weight disparity between old-school heavies and their modern counterparts. However, I would say with some confidence that Robinson would thoroughly outbox and probably smash up Margarito.

    Sugar Ray is the finest Welterweight of all time, Margarito – admittedly a monster at 147 – is a creditable contender. The Mexican has nothing SRR hasn’t seen, worked out and destroyed.

    And no amount of physiological improvement in modern atheletes can usurp the chasm in quality between the two.

    I’d venture the argument, when applied to the confines of a weight division, is even more substantiated. Modern fighters, fight infrequently, are protected by greater intervention from referees, shorter fights and simply lack the fistic education their predeccesors had.

    The talent pool is as rich these days in most divisions, but the competition doesn’t meet each other to promote the maximising of fighter’s potential.

    Fighting twice a year, and once every three years against a fighter of equal stature, is not the recipe for honing craft, stamina and battle hardiness.

    SRR would have demolished Margarito.

    Archie Moore would demolish Tarver.

    I just question the appetite for elite fixtures amongst the modern day ‘champions’. Remove weight advantage and I’d back equivalent fighters of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s over today’s pampered fighters.

  5. SD says:

    “Not sure of the correlation between SRR v Margarito and the comparison between the weight disparity between old-school heavies and their modern counterparts.”

    I was just intrigued as to which side your bread is buttered. Boxing fans / writers / whatever always seem to be split between those who believe time has not improved the quality of the upper echelon of fighters. And those who believe the sport has naturally progressed and that modern fighters would beat their vintage counterparts.

    Perhaps in 30 years time I’ll be screaming that Mr X would never have come close to beating De la hoya, or Mayweather. I must admit to a degree of ignorance towards the vintage fighter. That doesnt mean I havent seen them fight, I just find it difficult to judge a fighter on the odd black and white grainy round here and there, or fight reports which are naturally inaccurate and often enhanced by the sands of time.

    Just to set the record straight, in no way am I trying to downgrade the old school, every fighter creates his own legacy in his own era.

  6. David Payne says:

    And like you, I wrestle with the dilemma.

    I just wondered whether Mayweather has the courage and heart of say Robinson, a fighter with which he shares so much natural ability.

    Robinson had to be tough, as well as pretty, to survive in those periods.

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