|Tuesday, 02 December 2008 14:50|
Rocco Francis Marchegiano
Born: September 1, 1923, Brockton, Massachusetts
Died: August 31, 1969, near Newton, Iowa
Cause of death: Plane crash.
Notable because: Boxer with a 49 - 0 record. The only champion to retire undefeated.
Rocky Marciano was the heavyweight champion of the world from 1952 to 1956. Marciano, with forty-three knockouts to his credit (87.8% knockout rate), remains the only heavyweight champion in boxing history to retire having won every fight in his professional career.
Marciano was an Italian-American, born and raised in Brockton, Massachusetts to Pierino and Pasqualina Marchegiano. Rocky had three sisters− Alice, Concetta, and Elizabeth and two brothers− Louis and Peter. When he was about eighteen months old, he contracted pneumonia, from which he almost died. In his youth, 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 heavy bag. He attended Brockton High School, where he played on the American football and baseball teams. However, he was cut from the school baseball team because he had joined a church league, violating a school rule forbidding players from joining other teams. He dropped out of school after finishing tenth grade. Marciano then worked as a chute man on delivery trucks for the Brockton Ice and Coal Company. He also worked as a ditch digger and as a shoemaker. Rocky was also a resident of Hanson, Massachusetts; the house he lived in still stands on Main Street.
In March 1943, Marciano was drafted into the army for a term of two years. Stationed in Wales, he helped ferry supplies across the English Channel to Normandy. After the war ended he completed his service in March 1946 at Fort Lewis, Washington.
While awaiting discharge, Marciano, representing the army, won the 1946 amateur armed forces boxing tournament. His amateur career was interrupted on March 17, 1947, when Marciano stepped into the ring as a professional competitor. That night he beat Lee Epperson by a knockout in three rounds. In an unusual move, however, Marciano returned to the amateur ranks and fought in the Golden Gloves All-East Championship Tournament in March 1948. He was beaten by Coley Wallace during the tournament. He continued to fight as an amateur throughout that spring and competed in the AAU Olympic tryouts in the Boston Garden. There he knocked out George McGinnis, but hurt his hands during the bout and was forced to withdraw from the tournament. The McGinnis fight was his last amateur bout. His amateur years, with an 8-4 record, would be the last time Marciano experienced a loss.
In late March, 1947, Marciano and a few of his friends traveled to Fayetteville, North Carolina, to try out for the Fayetteville Cubs, a farm team for the Chicago Cubs baseball team. Marciano lasted three weeks before being cut from the team. After failing to find a spot on another team, he returned to Brockton and began boxing training with longtime friend, Allie Colombo. Al Weill served as his manager and Charley Goldman as his trainer and teacher.
Although he had one professional fight (against Lee Epperson) on his record, on July 12, 1948, Marciano began fighting permanently as a professional boxer after Robert Merry chose not to go Pro, which allowed Rocky to fight professionally. That night he notched a win over Harry Bilizarian. He won his first sixteen bouts by knockout, all before the fifth round, and nine before the first round was over. Don Mogard became the first boxer to last the distance with "The Rock," but Marciano 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 Marciano's handler, Al Weill, suggested they create a pseudonym. The first suggestion was Rocky Mack, which Marciano rejected. He decided to go with the more Italian-sounding "Marciano".
Marciano 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 Marciano. Nevertheless, Marciano kept his winning streak alive by beating Lowry by decision. Marciano fought Lowry again in November 1950 and it too went the scheduled ten round distance. Four more knockout wins followed his first fight with Lowry, including a five rounder on December 19, 1949 with Phil Muscato, an experienced heavyweight from Buffalo, New York, and the first "name fighter" Marciano would oppose. Three weeks after that fight Rocky beat Carmine Vingo in a fifth round knockout in New York that almost killed Vingo. When Rocky next fought in late March 1950, he gained a hard-fought ten-round decision victory over the fighter who would later become his 1953 world title challenger Roland La Starza. The victory over La Starza was extremely close. Marciano won 6-4 on all scorecards.
Marciano 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 decision win over Red Applegate late April 1951, he was showcased on national television for the first time, when he knocked out Rex Layne in six rounds on July 12, 1951. 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 four more wins, including victories over Lee Savold and Harry Matthews, Marciano faced world heavyweight champion, 38-year-old Jersey Joe Walcott in Philadelphia on September 23, 1952. Walcott dropped Marciano in the first round and steadily built a points lead; but in the thirteenth, Marciano's "Suzie Q" right cross knocked Walcott unconscious, and Marciano was the new world heavyweight champion. His first defense came a year later against Walcott, who this time was knocked out in the first round. Next, it was Roland La Starza's turn to challenge Marciano. After building a small lead on the judges' scorecards all the way to the middle rounds, Marciano won by a technical knockout in the eleventh round.
Then came two consecutive bouts against former world heavyweight champion and light-heavyweight legend Ezzard Charles, who became the only man to ever last fifteen rounds against Marciano. Marciano won the first fight on points and the second by an eight-round knockout. Then, Marciano met British and European champion, Don Cockell. Marciano knocked him out in the ninth.
Marciano's last title bout was against Archie Moore on September 21, 1955. The bout was originally scheduled for September 20, but because of hurricane warnings it had to be moved to the 21st. Marciano was knocked down for a four count in the second round, but he got up and knocked out Moore in the 9th round. Moore was also knocked down in the 6th and 8th round but was saved by the bell.
Marciano announced his retirement on April 27, 1956.
Marciano considered a comeback in 1959 when Ingemar Johansson won the heavyweight championship from Floyd Patterson on June 26, 1959. After only a month of training in 3 years, Marciano decided against it and never seriously considered a comeback again.
After his retirement, Marciano hosted a weekly boxing show on TV for one year. For a brief period, he worked as a troubleshooting referee in wrestling (Marciano was a good wrestler in high school). He continued as a referee and boxing commentator in boxing matches for many years.
In late July 1969, shortly before his death, Marciano participated in the filming of the fantasy, The Superfight: Marciano vs. Ali. The two boxers were filmed sparring, then the film was edited to match a computer simulation of a hypothetical fight between them, each in their prime. The bout was aired on January 20, 1970. Marciano won by KO in 13.
In 1969, on the eve of his 46th birthday, Marciano was a passenger in a small private plane, a Cessna 172 headed to Des Moines, Iowa. It was at night, and bad weather set in. The pilot, Glenn Belz, had only 231 total hours of flying time, only 35 of them at night, and was not certified to fly in such dangerous conditions. Belz tried to set the plane down at a small airfield outside Newton, Iowa, but hit a tree two miles short of the runway. Evidently, the plane was also extremely low on fuel. Rocky, Belz (the young pilot), and 22 year old Frankie Farrell (son of Italian mobster Louis Fratto) were killed on impact. The National Transportation Safety Board report said, "The pilot attempted operation exceeding his experience and ability level, continued visual flight rules under adverse weather conditions, and experienced spatial disorientation in the last moments of the flight." . Marciano was on his way to give a speech to support a friend's son and there was a surprise birthday celebration waiting for him. He had hoped to return early morning for his 46th birthday celebration with his wife. He was coming from a dinner in Chicago at STP CEO Andy Granatelli's home.
He is interred in a crypt at Forest Lawn Memorial Cemetery in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His wife, who died five years after him at the age of 46, is entombed next to him. His father died in March 1972, his mother died in early January 1986.
In 1971, Ring magazine founder Nat Fleischer named Marciano as the tenth greatest heavyweight champion ever. In 1998, Ring magazine named Marciano as the sixth greatest heavyweight champion ever. In 2002, Ring Magazine numbered Marciano at #12 on the list of the 80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years. In 2003, Ring Magazine rated Marciano #14 on the list of 100 greatest punchers of all time. In 2005, Marciano was named the fifth greatest heavyweight of all time by the International Boxing Research Organization. A 1977 ranking by Ring magazine listed Marciano as the greatest Italian-American fighter. In 2007, on ESPN.com's list of the 50 Greatest Boxers of All Time, Marciano was ranked #14. A 1968 radio computer simulation by Murry Woroner concluded that Marciano was the greatest heavyweight champion.
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. Light heavyweight Dariusz Michalczewski also challenged Marciano when he was 48-0. Julio César Chávez holds the record for longest win streak with eighty-eight straight until he suffered a draw in 1993. Willie Pep, a featherweight, had a perfect 63-0 record before he was defeated. Packy McFarland was a lightweight (fighting between 1904-1915) who lost his first fight and then won his next 98, though he never won the lightweight title.
Throughout history, only a few boxers have retired without a defeat. Super middleweight Sven Ottke was 34-0 when he retired, while welterweight Floyd Mayweather, Jr. retired at 39-0. A few boxers have retired undefeated but did suffer draws. Ji Won Kim retired as an undefeated super bantamweight champion in 1986 with a 16-0-2 record, Ricardo Lopez retired in 2001 at 51-0-1, and middleweight Laszlo Papp was 28-0-2.
Marciano was knocked down to the canvas only twice in his professional career. The first occurred in his first championship bout, against Jersey Joe Walcott and the second occurred against Archie Moore. On both occasions, he rose to knock his opponent out.
Marciano's punch was tested and it was featured in the December 1963 issue of Boxing Illustrated: "Marciano's knockout blow packs more explosive energy than an armour-piercing bullet and represents as much energy as would be required to spot lift 1000 pounds one foot off the ground."
Marciano was named fighter of the year by Ring Magazine three times. His three championship fights between 1952-54 were named fights of the year by that magazine. In 2006, an ESPN poll voted Marciano's 1952 championship bout against Walcott as the greatest knockout ever. Marciano also received the Hickok Belt for top professional athlete of the year in 1952. In 1955, he was voted second most important American athlete of the year.
Marciano is a member of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame.
A bronze statue of Marciano is planned for 2009 in his hometown of Brockton, MA. The statue will be gifted to the city by the World Boxing Council. A location for the statue has yet to be decided. The artist Mario Rendon, head of the Instituto Universitario de las Bellas Artes in Colima, Mexico, has been selected to sculpt the statue.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 December 2008 16:37|