Going Back To 1956 With Marciano and My Dad
ROUND AFTER ROUND
On September 23rd 1952 Rocky Marciano climbed into the ring to challenge the heavyweight boxing champion, Jersey Joe Walcott. What followed was what many have called the greatest heavyweight championship fight of all time. In the first round, Walcott caught Marciano with a perfect left hook that dropped him for the first time in 43 fights! But The Rock was up at the count of 3. From then on it was a brutal fight, with Walcott using all his ring skills, hitting Marciano with shot after shot. Walcott’s punches would have knocked out most other fighters. But Rocky was relentless, taking tremendous punishment as he bulled his way into close range to land his own hard blows. By the 12th round Walcott was ahead on all scorecards. Rocky's corner told him he needed a knockout to win. In the fateful 13th round Jersey Joe stepped back from Marciano with his back to the ropes and Rocky delivered a right hand punch that would probably have felled any fighter who ever lived. Walcott slumped to the floor, one arm hanging on the lower rope and was counted out. It took several minutes to revive him. Rocky Marciano was the new Heavyweight Champion of the World!
Two weeks later, on October 8th 1952, the Baha’is commemorated the start of a Holy Year. It was the commemoration of the centenary of the rise of the orb of Baha’u’llah’s most sublime Revelation. The launching of a world-embracing spiritual crusade in 1953 was also proclaimed on that same date. I was only eight at the time. I can neither remember this launching nor this famous fight. The fight was not televised, nor was it on radio and so my dad and I were not able to enjoy the fight together. We had to wait until 1953 or 1954. I can’t remember now after all this time what was the first fight we watched together. My father was a boxing enthusiast, although not obsessively so.
That year my mother had just made her first contact with the Baha’i Faith after seeing an ad in the local paper, the Burlington Gazette. I have often felt, looking back to 1953/4 that these Rocky Marciano fights I saw with my father at the start of the Ten Year Crusade were symbolic of the long fight ahead for my father and for me, for my society and the world. Little did I know then, living as we all did on the brink of self-destruction, as a grade four primary school student, as a person who would spend the rest of his life associated with this new world Faith, the nature of the fight, the battle, ahead.
Marciano became a top contender in the heavyweight boxing world following his sixth-round knockout of Rex Layne at Madison Square Garden on 12 July 1951. 1951 was the same year that saw the rise of the Baha’i Administrative Centre in Haifa. This rise, this development, this process, taking place at the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa Israel, had been kept in abeyance for thirty years(1921-1951) while the machinery of the national and local Baha’i institutions of this nascent Order was being erected. Boxing experts have considered September 29th 1952 to be Marciano's defining moment. Marciano fought a rematch with Walcott on 15 May 1953 in Chicago Stadium. This time Marciano scored a knockout after just 145 seconds. This was right at the start of the Ten Year Crusade, in the first month of that Crusade.
Marciano had trained extraordinarily hard. The Baha’i community had trained hard and would train hard in the years ahead. Rocky Marciano stood as a symbol right at the start of the first international teaching Plan. On 17 June 1954 Marciano successfully defended his title against the aged former champion Ezzard Charles at Yankee Stadium. Marciano's final defense came on 20 September 1955. He retired in 1956 and was killed in a plane crash in August 1969.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, July 1st 2006.
You were a model in so many ways,
Rocky, little did I know back then
sitting in that little lounge-room at
the start of a Crusade that would take
this Cause to the earth’s far corners.
You were like a rose amongst thorns,
so said Jimmy Cannon in his summary
of your life. I knew so little of your life,
Rocky, until just the other day, occupied
as I have been with a rose in another garden,
a rose-garden of the spirit whose charm
captured my heart these many years while
I carried the fight and walked the walk
in such a different way to you, Rocky.
I tried to plant the rose of love in the garden
of my heart surrounded as I was by a different
set of thorns than the one you battled with.
My battle was so different than yours, Rocky,
spread out over more than 50 years in a ring,
often on the ropes, round after round, waiting
for the bell to toll, in my corner and many other
corners, never taking the title, wanting to retire.
July 1st 2006
It Gets Reborn Occasionally, princemanspoper
Boxing gets reborn in my life occasionally, princemanspoper. Here is a piece I wrote today.-Ron in Australia
JOE LOUIS AND THE BAHÁ'Í TEACHING PLAN
Joe Louis(1914-1981) was ranked as the No. 1 contender for the heavyweight champion of the world in 1935 and that year he won the Associated Press' "Athlete of the Year" award. What was considered to be a final tune-up bout before an eventual title shot for Louis was scheduled for 19 June 1936 against former world heavyweight champion Max Schmeling. By exploiting Louis's habit of dropping his left hand low after a jab, Schmeling handed Louis his first professional loss. He knocked Louis out in Round 12 at Yankee Stadium on 19 June 1936. Two months later, on 18 August 1936, Louis knocked out former champion Jack Sharkey. In that summer of 1936 the North American Baha’is had just begun to make their first efforts to implement ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Divine Plan in their first systematic teaching program. His Plan has been implemented in a series of organized campaigns which I have been associated with for nearly sixty years.
On 22 June 1937, more than one year into the implementation of that Plan, Louis defeated James Braddock by knockout in Round 8. Louis's ascent to the world heavyweight title was complete. Louis's victory was a seminal moment in African American history. Thousands of African Americans stayed up all night across the country to watch the fight. Louis inflicted constant punishment on Braddock. Noted author, and member of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes, celebrating the event described Louis's effect in these terms:
“Each time Joe Louis won a fight in those depression years, even before he became champion, thousands of coloured Americans on relief and poor would throng out into the streets all across the land to march and cheer and yell and cry because of Joe's one-man triumphs. No one else in the United States has ever had such an effect on Negro emotions – or on mine. I marched and cheered and yelled and cried, too.”(1)
On 30 August 1937 Louis and British Empire Champion Tommy Farr touched gloves at New York's Yankee Stadium before a crowd of approximately 32,000. Louis fought one of the hardest battles of his life. The bout was closely contested and went the entire 15 rounds with Louis being unable to knock Farr down. Louis won a controversial unanimous decision. Time Magazine described the scene thus: “After collecting the judges' votes, referee Arthur Donovan announced that Louis had won the fight on points.”
The rematch between Louis and Schmeling is one of the most famous boxing matches of all time, and is remembered as one of the major sports events of the 20th century. Following his defeat of Louis in 1936, Schmeling became a national hero in Germany. Schmeling's victory over an African American was touted by Nazi officials as proof of their doctrine of Aryan superiority. When the rematch was scheduled, Louis retreated to his boxing camp in New Jersey and trained incessantly for the fight. A few weeks before the bout, Louis visited the White House, where President Franklin D. Roosevelt told him, "Joe, we need muscles like yours to beat Germany." Louis later admitted: "I knew I had to get Schmeling good. I had my own personal reasons and the whole damned country was depending on me."
When Schmeling arrived in New York in June 1938 for the rematch he was accompanied by a Nazi party publicist who issued statements that a black man could not defeat Schmeling. The publicist also said that, when Schmeling won, the prize money would be used to build tanks in Germany.
On the night of June 22, 1938, Louis and Schmeling met for the second time in the boxing ring. The fight was held in Yankee Stadium before a crowd of 70,043. It was broadcast by radio to millions of listeners throughout the world, with radio announcers reporting on the fight in English, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. The fight lasted two minutes and four seconds. Louis battered Schmeling with a series of swift attacks, forcing Schmeling against the ropes and giving him a paralyzing body blow. Schmeling was knocked down three times and only managed to throw two punches in the entire bout.(2)
My father, who loved boxing and with whom I watched boxing matches back in the 1950s and 1960s before he died and had a Bahá'í funeral, was 48 years old in 1938 and had 27 years of his own life’s battles yet to go. He was just about to meet my mother whom he married in 1943. -Ron Price with thanks to (1) Wikipedia and (2) “The Fight: Part 2,” 10:00-11:00 p.m., SBS2 TV, 25 February 2010.
All of this boxing history took place
in the years surrounding the beginning
of the relationship between my father
and mother and the opening of that
Bahá'í teaching Plan in 1937 which
was a fight of immense proportions,
requiring a force, a gigantic task, and
a concentration of resources that
summoned to its aid all the faith,
the determination and the energies
of North American Bahá’ís in an
effort of single-mindedness to attain
still greater heights of mighty exertions
for the Cause of Faith and Bahá'u'lláh.(1)
(1) Shoghi Effendi, “Letter 30 May 1936,” Messages to America: 1932-1946, Bahá'í Publishing Committee, Wilmette, 1947, p.7.