The Super Fight
19-12-05 Revista de Prensa
Publicado originalmente en
By David Savona
The other night I watched Muhammad Ali fight Rocky Marciano. For those of you raising an eyebrow at that statement, wondering if your mental library of big heavyweight fights was missing a very important chapter, relax -- the fight was an exhibition, a film shot years ago when Marciano was retired, Ali was serving a suspension from boxing and neither had lost to another professional fighter. The story of how these two boxing legends came together in the ring is part of the charm in watching The Super Fight, a long lost film that is going on sale this month, marking the first time in about 30 years that it will be available to the public.
Marciano became heavyweight champ in 1952, before I was born, but no Italian kid in America could avoid hearing about The Rock. He was a thing of myth, an undersized bulldog who never lost a professional fight. Being smaller than nearly all of his opponents, he had to find a way to get inside to deal out his punishing blows, and that sometimes meant taking a punch or three before he could land one. But when he punched, oh did the giants fall. Marciano won 49 fights, 43 by knockout. He retired as champ in 1955.
Muhammad Ali rose to the rank of champion when I was a young boy, and I grew up knowing his name and reputation. His combination of speed and ring savvy -- and underappreciated size and what would prove to be one of the sport's toughest chins -- created his legend as perhaps the greatest fighter of all time -- a title he himself claimed over and over. As Ali's record grew to 29-0, boxing fans debated who would win in a fight between the two undefeated champs.
In 1969, both men were out of boxing. Marciano was long retired and Ali had been banned for failing to report to the draft board to serve in Vietnam. Boxing promoter Murry Woroner brought the two together in a ring for what he dubbed the Super Fight. It was filmed in secrecy, with multiple endings, and neither Ali or Marciano knew who would win. It was shown in 1,500 theaters on January 20, 1970, and the results made one boxer very happy and the other mad enough to sue.
The Super Fight DVD, which is being released on December 27 by Mackinac Media, tells the intriguing story of what led to the "fight," which was a staged match with an outcome determined by a computer, which analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of each man culled from their careers. (Asked if 1970s computers were up to such a task, a programmer boasts that such computers were able to put a man on the moon.)
I heard about the fight as a kid, and thought it was some type of computer game where images of each fighter duked it out. The two men actually came together in a ring (a very small ring, which suited Marciano's tactics better than Ali's) and sparred for some 70 short rounds, all of which were filmed. Head shots were supposed to be pulled, body shots could be thrown full force. Several endings were filmed.
The DVD set ($19.95) includes not only the bout, but a documentary narrated by Bert Sugar describing just what it took to get the undefeated Marciano and the Greatest of All Time Ali to agree to such an event. As the legend goes, all of the prints but one were destroyed after the showing. It was shown again on ABC's Wide World of Sports in the late 1970s, but hasn't been viewed since.
The man who brought this remarkable footage back from the dustbin is Mike DeLisa, the director of the documentary. DeLisa is a boxing historian. He wrote Cinderella Man, which became a Russell Crowe film, and he was in the cigar business for a time, importing cigars made in Venezuela.
If you buy the DVD, watch the documentary first. It makes the "fight" more enjoyable. If you're a boxing fan, there's something special about watching the small but tenacious Marciano stalk the much larger, younger Ali around the ring. As to who won…the DVD comes with the original ending as well as an alternate ending -- but I won't spoil it for you.
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