Bouts Against Rocky Graziano
Zale was a 2-time world middleweight champion and made the Ring Magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time. Zale is best remembered for his three bouts over a 21-month period with Rocky Graziano for the middleweight crown. These three bouts were among the most brutal and exciting middleweight championship matches of all time. The first match took place in Yankee Stadium, New York. Zale had served in World War II, was thirty-three years old, and had been inactive for about four years. Graziano was on a winning knockout streak and seemed to be in his prime. In their first match (September 27, 1946), after flooring Graziano in the first round, Zale took a savage beating from Graziano, and was on the verge of losing the fight by TKO. However, he rallied and knocked out Graziano in the sixth round to retain his title. The rematch, a year later in Chicago (July] 16, 1947), was a mirror image of their first fight. Graziano was battered around the ring, suffered a closed eye and appeared ready to lose by a knockout, then rallied and knocked Zale out in the sixth round, becoming middleweight champion of the world.
Their last fight was held in New Jersey the following year (June 10, 1948). Zale regained his crown, winning the match by a knockout in the third round. The knockout blows consisted of a perfect combination of a right to Graziano's body, then a left hook to Graziano's jaw. Graziano was knocked unconscious. This fight was Zale's last hurrah. His age and the many ring wars he fought seemed to catch up with him in his next fight against European Champion Marcel Cerdan later that year, who stopped him in the eleventh round to win the middleweight championship of the world (September 21, 1948). Graziano commented that years later he would wake up in a cold sweat having had the recurring nightmare of being back in the ring with Zale, who he said really was a man of steel.
Edith Piaf, who at the time was having an affair with Cerdan, was in the audience, praying to Saint Therese for his victory. Two of the three Graziano fights and the Cerdan fight were named Ring Magazine fights of the year.
Zale trained successful amateur boxer Robert Beal.
Zale was originally cast to play himself in the movie Somebody Up There Likes Me. When Paul Newman (playing Graziano) and he were sparring prior to filming, Newman got rough and Zale knocked him out. Zale was replaced by Courtland Shepard for the final fight scene.
Read more about this topic: Tony Zale
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