Rocky MarcianoRocco Francis Marchegiano
, better known as Rocky Marciano
(September 1 1923
– August 31 1969
), was an Italian-American boxer
He was the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion from September 23
to November 30
. As Marciano is the only champion of any weight class to retire undefeated and without any draws, he is considered one of the greatest heavyweights of all time.
Marciano was born and raised in Brockton, Massachusetts
. When he was one year old, he contracted pneumonia, from which he almost did not survive. As a youngster, he played baseball
, worked out on homemade weightlifting
equipment, and used a stuffed mail bag that hung from a tree in his back yard as a punching bag
. He initially wanted to be a baseball player rather than a boxer.
He attended Brockton High School where he played on football
and baseball teams. However, he was cut from the baseball team because he had joined a church league, violating a school rule forbidding players from joining other teams. He later dropped out of school after finishing tenth grade.
Marciano found work as a chute man on delivery trucks for the Brockton Ice and Coal Company and later worked as shoe salesman. At age twenty, he was called up by the United States Army
to serve in the United Kingdom
, but World War II
ended, and he returned home.
While awaiting discharge from the army, Rocky decided to take part in an amateur boxing competition, where he represented the Army and won.
His next big opportunity was the national AAU
championships. Marciano won his first two bouts by knockouts in the first round, but by the third bout, his knuckles were damaged, and he lost by decision for the championship. His hand later required surgery.
For a time he played semi-pro baseball and was signed by the Chicago Cubs
to a minor league contract. However, feeling discouraged about his chances of making it to the big leagues, he returned to Brockton and began boxing training with longtime friend Armand "Allie" Colombo (died January 7th 1969, truck accident, at work).Al Weill was his manager, with the great Charley Goldman as his trainer and teacher. Goldman gradually fashioned Marciano into one of the best heavyweights in boxing history.
On March 17
, Rocky finally stepped into the ring as a professional competitor for the first time. That night, he beat Lee Epperson
by a knockout
in three rounds. He won all his first sixteen bouts by knockout, all before the fourth round, and nine before the first round was over. Don Mogard
became the first boxer to last the distance with "The Rock," but Rocky won by decision. Early in his career, he changed the spelling of his last name. The ring announcer in Providence, Rhode Island
could not pronounce Marchegiano, so his handler said to call him Marciano.
He won three more fights by knockout, and then he met Ted Lowry
, who, according to many scribes and witnesses, probably managed to win three or four of the ten rounds from Rocky. Nevertheless, Rocky kept his winning streak alive by beating Lowry by decision. Rocky fought Lowry twice, and both times bouts lasted ten rounds. Four more knockout wins followed, and then he gained another hard-fought ten-round decision victory over his future world title challenger Roland La Starza
. He won three more knockouts in a row before a rematch with Lowry. Marciano again won, by unanimous decision. After that, he won four more by knockout, and, after a win in six over Red Applegate
, he was showcased on national TV for the first time, when he knocked out Rex Layne
in six rounds on July 12
. One more win, and he was again on national TV, this time against Joe Louis
. Marciano defeated Louis in what would be the latter's last career bout, a result that left him with mixed emotions as Louis had been the idol of his childhood.
After that series of wins, Marciano was a ranked heavyweight. After four more wins, including victories over Lee Savold
and Harry Matthews
, Marciano faced World Heavyweight Champion Jersey Joe Walcott
on September 23
. After being dropped in round one, Marciano got up and knocked Walcott out in the thirteenth round, becoming the new Heavyweight Champion. The punch which knocked out Walcott has been referred to as one of the hardest punches ever thrown in a boxing ring. A rematch was fought one year later, and, in Marciano's first title defense, he retained the title with a first-round knockout of Walcott. Next, it was La Starza's turn to challenge Marciano, and after building a small lead on the judges' scorecards all the way to the middle rounds, La Starza was knocked out in eleven by the champion. Then came former World Heavyweight champion Ezzard Charles
, whom Marciano beat by a decision in their first bout. Ezzard Charles was the only man to ever last fifteen rounds against Marciano, and the champ later praised him as one of the toughest men he ever fought in his life. After having his nose split in round six of the rematch, Marciano retained the title with an eighth-round knockout win. Then Marciano met British
champion Don Cockell
and beat him in nine rounds (Moore was saved by the bell in the 6th round), and, in his last bout, Marciano got up off the canvas in round two to retain his title by a knockout in nine against the equally-legendary Light-Heavyweight Champion of the World Archie Moore
.Rocky was named fighter of the year in 1952 and 1954 by Ring Magazine
. His three fights between 1952-54 were named fights of the year by the same magazine, all were title bouts.
Marciano managed his money well after his retirement and lived comfortably. But some of the money he gave others, he never received back. Many people used his good will to his advantage. He hosted a weekly boxing show on TV for one year and for a brief period worked as a trouble-shooting referee in wrestling
. He continued as a referee and boxing commentator in boxing matches until his death. He was a guest referee many times.
, Rocky was a passenger in a small private plane, a Cessna 172
], headed to Des Moines
. It was at night, and bad weather set in. The pilot tried to set the plane down at a small airfield outside Newton, Iowa
but hit a tree two miles short of the runway. Rocky Marciano, the pilot, and another passenger were killed on impact. Rocky was on his way to make a speech for his friend's son. He had hoped to return early morning for his 46th birthday celebration with his wife. He left no will.
Rocky had a professional record of 49-0 with forty-three knockouts. Some say that he was 50-0 (with forty-four knockouts), but that bout can not be proven as a professional, yet. He was originally scheduled to fight Nino Valdez in his last fight on January 2
(or at a later date in Cuba, June 1956), but that fight, originally planned for Orlando, Florida, never took place. There was some talk about Floyd Patterson fighting Rocky on January 4/11th 1956, Floyd's 21st birthday, but again, no interest since Floyd was not a contender for a heavy-weight title. Other possible contenders near the end of Marciano's career were Tommy Hurricane Jackson
, Bob Baker
and Floyd Patterson
; however, Patterson was not yet ready to take on Marciano and wanted to fight for light-heavyweight championship first for about one to two more years.
Marciano holds the record for the longest undefeated streak by a heavyweight and for being the only World Heavyweight Champion to go undefeated throughout his career. This record was challenged by Larry Holmes
in 1985 when Holmes went 48-0 before losing to Michael Spinks twice. Dariusz Michalczewski
also challenged the Rock when he was 48-0. Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez
holds the record for longest undefeated streak with eighty-eight straight wins until he suffered a draw in 1993. Ricardo Lopez
also retired undefeated in 2001 from the Junior flyweight division at 51-0-1. Marciano had forty-three KO's. This is the highest percentage of knockouts at 88%. There were other undefeated boxers throughout history, but many of them had at least one draw.
Rocky was knocked down to the canvas only twice â€" for a total of few seconds of counting â€" in his entire professional career. On both occasions he returned to KO his opponent. Only Gene Tunney and Vitali Klitschko and George Chuvallo were knocked down less amongst heavyweight champions. Tunney was knocked down once for a nine count â€" in the famous Long Count Fight against Jack Dempsey.
Marciano was the subject of the 1999 made-for-TV film Rocky Marciano  as well as Marciano in 1979 . Also, in the movie Rocky, the "Rocky Balboa" character told his trainer "Mickey" that Marciano was his favorite boxer. Marciano has also been the subject of several paintings, and he is on a US postage stamp commemorating his life.
Marciano, like rivals Louis, Walcott, and Moore, is a member of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame. Other awards which Marciano won included the Hickok Belt for top professional athlete of the year 1952. He was boxer of the year 1952 and 1954.
Numerous books have been written about Marciano, including Everett M. Skehan's Rocky Marciano, Biography of a First Son, whose cover appears at the top of this page. Ring Magazine numbered Marciano at number fourteen in its list of The 100 Greatest Punchers of All Time, released in 2003. He is considered one of the greatest boxers of all time. He's also mentioned in Billy Joel's history themed song "We Didn't Start the Fire".
Rocky Marciano is interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Cemetery in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His wife died five years later and is buried next to him. His father died in 1973 at the age of seventy-nine. His mother lived until 1986.
* Lineal heavyweight champions
* List of heavyweight boxing champions
* List of male boxers
* List of notable boxing rivalries
*Rocky Marciano's Career Record
*Nino Valdes boxing record, the 50th would be opponent; January-June 1956