Marcel Cerdan vs Lavern Roach (lost footage of boxing match; 1948)

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Marcel Cerdan laying several punches on Lavern Roach.

Status: Lost

On 12th March 1948, middleweight boxers Marcel Cerdan and Raymond "Lavern" Roach competed in a bout at Madison Square Garden. Occurring in front of 16,900, Cerdan won the encounter via TKO in the eighth round, in a brutal affair featuring Roach suffering numerous knockdowns. Some boxing journalists believe the bout may have contributed to Roach's death two years later.


Heading into the fight, Marcel Cerdan had held the EBU European Middleweight Championship for over a year, having defeated Leon Fouquet for the vacant belt on 2nd February 1947.[1][2] He was seeking to build momentum for a future World Middleweight Championship shot, the Frenchman's last match being a KO victory over Jean Walczak on 9th February 1948.[3][1] Meanwhile, Lavern Roach had been climbing the rankings under the tutoring of Gene Tunney, and was even declared "Rookie of the Year" by The Ring in 1947.[4][5][2][3] By 20th January, plans were in place for him to challenge Cerdan, with Roach also eyeing a future World Middleweight Championship match against champion Rocky Grazisno.[6][3][2] The match was agreed for 12th March, with a maximum of ten rounds.[6][3] Both boxers were maintaining significant winning streaks.[3][4][1][5]

Victories over middleweight veteran Tony Janiro on 16th January 1948 and Al Thornton on 20th February helped solidify his challenge, having achieved a professional fight record up to that point of 24-1.[4][2][3][5] Meanwhile, Cerdan was aiming for his 33rd consecutive victory.[3] Cerdan was by far the more experienced of the two, the Frenchman being nine years older than the American.[3][2] Sources also considered the him the favourite on a 1-2 or 12-5 margin heading into the bout.[3][2] Nevertheless, Roach's recent performances and growing potential led some to believe he was going to pull off an upset.[3][2] Particularly, while The New York Times praised Cerdan for his strength, it criticised his workmanship, and felt Roach would do decently in close range and outperform the Frenchman in long range attacks.[3] Further, it did note the age factor may play into the Texan's hands.[3] In an attempt to play down Roach's chances, Cerdan stated "Roach is a pretty boy, he has too good a physique to box."[2] The encounter would attract 16,500 to Madison Square Garden, beating projections by 1,500 and generating an $80,030 gate.[7][3][2][4] It also received coverage from NBC station WNBT, drawing a 46.3 rating.[8]

The Fight

The bout occurred on 12th March 1948.[7][2][1][5] Roach controlled proceedings in the first round, winning handily on points.[7][2] His main attack, a left jab, split Cerdan's lower lip.[2][7] In the second round, Roach attempted another left jab, only to be countered by a right to the jaw, sending the Texan to the mat.[2][7][4] He managed to get up at nine, but now the Frenchman was in control with Roach forced to go on the defensive.[7][2] To avoid a second knockdown, Roach engaged in holding, and Cerdan's resultant attempts to escape caused both middleweights to fall to the ground.[7][2][4] Cerdan promptly got up, but Roach decided to kneel down and await a count.[7][2] This caused confusion between referee Arthur Donovan, and timekeeper Jack Watson, the latter responsible for starting counts.[7][2][4] It took a few seconds before Watson was ordered by Donovan to start the count, with Roach finally getting up at nine.[7][2][4] Roach was down for 32 seconds in total, and so easily would have been counted out if the count started promptly.[7][2] Watson explained that he believed counts could only start if a boxer was felled by a punch.[7] Despite the extra break, Roach remained startled, with a left taking him down.[2][7] That time, he got up at two.[7][2]

In rounds 3 and 4, Roach was subject to heavy body blows from Cerdan, with the latter's attacks to the head being somewhat off-target.[7][2] The New York Times attributed this and Roach's pure instinct as the only reasons the Texan was not knocked down again.[7] The Texan launched somewhat of a comeback in the fifth round, achieving some long-range jabs.[7][2] However, Cerdan's short-range double and triple combinations were proving too much, with body blows helping to solidify the Frenchman's dominance in the sixth.[2][7] Particularly, a right body blow caused Roach to clearly wince in pain, further strengthening Cerdan's confidence.[2] Roach launched another comeback in round 7, troubling Cerdan with right counters, and delivering both a hit to the Frenchman's eye and following it up with an uppercut.[7][2][4] The Texan again went on the aggressive in round 8 with two lefts to the face.[7][2] However, Cerdan responded with a long right, causing his opponent to fall.[7][2][4] Roach got up at two, but was again floored by a left hook and a right to the jaw.[7][2][4] This time, he recovered at nine, but was clearly in dire straits.[2][7][4]

Finally, Cerdan landed a right that once again achieved a knockdown.[7][2][4] This was enough for Donovan to stop the match and declare Cerdan the winner via TKO after 2:31 had elapsed in the eighth round.[7][2][1][5][4] Cerdan received a standing ovation from the Madison crowd afterwards, with him praising Roach post-match for his guts, and noting that he needed to find a second wind by the seventh round.[2] Meanwhile, Roach admitted he never recovered from the first knockdown.[2] Following this dominant victory, it looked as if Cerdan would be next to challenge Graziano.[2][7] Ultimately, a Cerdan-Graziano bout never occurred, as Graziano lost his New York boxing licence for not informing the New York State Athletic Commission that offers of bribery were made to him.[2] Nevertheless, he did capture the NBA World Middleweight Championship by beating Tony Zale by decision on 21st September 1948.[1] He lost the belt to Jake LaMotta by decision on 16th June 1949, at which point he retired with a 110-4 record.[1] Meanwhile, Roach lost a further two matches in quick succession and retired from the ring to establish a Plainview tyre repair and insurance business.[9][4][5] He made a comeback in 1950, challenging George Small on 22nd February 1950.[10][9][4][5] But after losing the match via KO, Roach passed away aged 25 after suffering a subdural haemorrhage.[9][4][10][5] Despite Roach claiming he had fully recovered from the Cerdan, some believe the match did in fact contribute to his death and that he never fully physically recovered from it.[4][10][9]


As noted by the 10th July 1948 issue of Billboard, the match received coverage from WNBT.[8] Ultimately, the match was televised live in an era where telerecordings seldom happened until videotape was perfected in the late-1950s.[11] No footage of the bout is known to have survived, but photos of it are widely available.[2]

See Also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 BoxRec detailing Cerdan's fight record. Retrieved 6th Jan '23
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 2.30 2.31 2.32 2.33 2.34 2.35 2.36 Boxing Memorial detailing the match (article in French). Retrieved 6th Jan '23
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 12th March 1948 issue of The New York Times previewing the match and noting Cerdan was declared the favourite heading in. Retrieved 6th Jan '23
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 Bad Left Hook summarising the bout's brutality and claiming it may well have contributed to Roach's death a few years later. Retrieved 6th Jan '23
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 BoxRec detailing Roach's fight record. Retrieved 6th Jan '23
  6. 6.0 6.1 20th January 1948 issue of The New York Times reporting on the match being set for 12th March. Retrieved 6th Jan '23
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 7.15 7.16 7.17 7.18 7.19 7.20 7.21 7.22 7.23 7.24 7.25 13th March 1948 issue of The New York Times reporting on Roach winning the bout. Retrieved 6th Jan '23
  8. 8.0 8.1 10th July 1948 issue of Billboard noting the match received television coverage from WNBT, drawing a 46.3 rating. Retrieved 6th Jan '23
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 24th February 1950 issue of The New York Times reporting on Roach's death following his match with Small. Retrieved 6th Jan '23
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 6th March 1950 issue of LIFE summarising Roach's final bout and believing he never fully physically recovered from the Cerdan loss. Retrieved 6th Jan '23
  11. Web Archive article discussing how most early television is missing due to the lack of directly recording television. Retrieved 6th Jan '23