Muhammad Ali Fights Rocky Marciano Toe-to-Toe
The Super Fight was a fictional boxing match between Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali shot in 1969. At the time, Ali and Marciano were the only undefeated heavyweight champions in history and fans often debated who would win had they met in their primes. Ali and Marciano were filmed acting out every possible scenario in a fight and the result was then determined using probability formulas entered into a computer. The final fight was only shown once in select cinemas around the world and released as a DVD over three decades later. The ending was shot twice – with each fighter winning.
In 1967, radio producer Murray Woroner had the idea of determining the all-time great heavyweight champion of the world by placing boxing champions of different eras in a series of fantasy fights. . Woroner sent out a survey to 250 boxing experts and writers to help determine which boxers would be used in what would become a fantasy tournament. Hank Meyer, President and salesman with a one other partner in SPS, was instrumental in setting this competition up, and contended at the time that it was his idea. Woroner picked the first round of fantasy matches to be:
Jack Dempsey vs. Gentleman Jim Corbett
John L. Sullivan vs. Jim Braddock
Bob Fitzsimmons vs. Jack Sharkey
Jim Jeffries vs. Jersey Joe Walcott
Joe Louis vs. Jess Willard
Max Baer vs. Jack Johnson
Rocky Marciano vs. Gene Tunney
Muhammad Ali vs. Max Schmeling
Punch-by-punch details of the boxer’s records during their prime were entered into an NCR 315 computer. Also their strengths, weaknesses, fighting styles and patterns and other factors and scenarios that the boxers could go through were converted into formulas. The NCR-315 with 20K of memory was supplied by SPS (Systems Programming Services), an independent service bureau in Miami Fla. The algorithms were supplied by an NCR mathematician, and programming was done in Fortran by an employee of SPS. Hank Meyer, President and salesman with a one other partner in SPS, was instrumental in setting this competition up, and contended at the time that it was his idea. The actual running of the software was done the night before each broadcast round of the ‘computer championship’ and took approximately 45 minutes to run, the output was a formatted report containing a series of codes describing each punch. This was then written to magnetic tape, the tape was then manually transferred to a Univac 1005 and printed. This early form of “foot-powered” networking was referred to as sneakernet, the reason for doing this was cost, it was cheaper to print on a 1005 than the 315. This took place in early 1968.
The outcomes were then staged as radio plays with Woroner and radio announcer Guy LeBow as the commentators. The fantasy fights were broadcast worldwide. Even the boxers who were still alive at the time listened to the programs and some of them participated as commentators. After the series of elimination rounds, the final fight was between Dempsey and Marciano. Marciano defeated Dempsey and was considered to be the all-time greatest heavyweight champion by the computer. Woroner awarded the real Marciano a gold and diamond championship belt worth $10,000.