Rocky Marciano

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Rocky Marciano
Class of 1990
Modern Category
Hall of Fame bio:click
World Boxing Hall of Fame Inductee

Name: Rocky Marciano
Alias: The Brockton Blockbuster
Birth Name: Rocco Francis Marchegiano
Born: 1923-09-01
Birthplace: Brockton, Massachusetts, USA
Died: 1969-08-31 (Age:45)
Hometown: Brockton, Massachusetts, USA
Stance: Orthodox
Height: 5′ 10½″   /   179cm
Reach: 68″   /   173cm
Boxing Record: click
Refereeing Record: click

Manager: Al Weill
Trainers: Charley Goldman, Al Columbo
Cornerman: Whitey Bimstein, Freddie Brown, Chickie Ferrera
Rocky Marciano Gallery


Rocky Marciano was born Rocco Francis Marchegiano on September 1, 1923, in Brockton, Massachusetts. Marciano was World Heavyweight Champion from 1952 to 1956, and he is the only World Heavyweight Champion to retire undefeated.

Marciano was the first of six children born to Perrino and Pasqualena Marchegiano. Before dropping out of high school to make a few bucks — as a gardener, delivery boy, laborer for the gas company, and leather tanner at the shoe factory where his father worked — he starred in football and baseball. In 1947, Marciano had a tryout with the Chicago Cubs as a catcher but was let go because he couldn't make the throw from home plate to second base with accuracy.

Marciano didn't take up boxing until after he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943. He took up the sport mainly as a way to avoid KP duty (assisting the cooks) and other less desirable activities, but he showed a natural ability and fought as an amateur following his discharge in 1946.

After being discharged, Marciano visited an old Army buddy, Joe Sarelli, in Chicago. Sarelli's father, who was connected to the fight game, agreed to assess Marciano's potential as a fighter. "His father took me to a gym in Chicago's Loop," Marciano recalled. "For three days, I hit the big bag and the little bag. I skipped rope and shadow boxed. At the end of the workouts, Joe's father sat down with me. He told me, 'Rocky, why don't you go home and forget about being a fighter. You'll too small to be a heavyweight. You'll never make it.'"

Marciano, fighting under the name "Rocky Mack" in order to maintain his amateur standing, turned professional on March 17, 1947, with a third-round knockout of Lee Epperson. Marciano then returned to the amateurs, where he fought under his real name.

On March 1, 1948, at the New York Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions, Marciano was on the short end of an unpopular split decision to Coley Wallace in what would be the last loss of his boxing career. In his last amateur fight, Marciano outpointed George McInnis to win the New England AAU Heavyweight Championship on March 22, 1948. Marciano did not move on to the nationals because of a fractured thumb. He finished his amateur career with a record of either 9-4, with 7 knockouts.

Marciano had been told that a manager based out of New York could do more for him than one in New England, so he went to New York City and met with Al Weill, who had previously managed Lou Ambers, Joey Archibald and Marty Servo. Weill telephoned trainer Charley Goldman and told him to set up a sparring session so they could gauge Marciano’s potential. Later that day, Marciano stepped into the ring at a CYO gym on 17th Street in Manhattan with a heavyweight named Wade Chancey.

“Al and I often looked over green kids who thought they could become fighters,” Goldman reminisced years later. “I’ll eat my derby hat if I ever saw anyone cruder than Rocky. He was so awkward that we stood there and laughed. He didn’t stand right. He didn’t throw a punch right. He didn’t block right. He didn’t do anything right. Then he hit Chancey with a roundhouse right which nearly put a hole in the guy’s head, and I told Weill that maybe I could do something with him.”

Goldman explained to his assistant, Angelo Dundee, that although Marciano lacked height and finesse, he had great punching power. Dundee said, "Charley taught the technique that if you are short, you make yourself smaller. Charley let him bend his knees to a deep knee squat. He was able to punch from that position, come straight up from the bag and hit a heck of a shot ... It was just bang-bang-bang-bang-BANG and get him outta there."

With Weill as his manager and Goldman as his trainer, Marciano, who changed his name from Marchegiano at Weill's suggestion (he said it was too hard to pronounce), won his second pro fight with a first-round knockout of Harry Bilazarian on July 12, 1948.

Weill became matchmaker for the International Boxing Club in May 1949. Since many state athletic commissions had a conflict-of-interest rule that precluded a matchmaker from managing a fighter, his stepson, Marty Weill, became Marciano's manager of record. In August 1952, Weill resigned as matchmaker and returned as Marciano's official manager.

Marciano won his first sixteen professional fights by knockout, but there were those who still didn't think much would become of him. Goody Petronelli, trainer of Marvin Hagler, caught one of Marciano's early fights and recalled for Sports Illustrated, "I never thought he'd make it. He was too old, almost 25. He was too short, he was too light. He had no reach. Rough and tough, but no finesse."

After twenty-five straight wins, Marciano fought Roland LaStarza, who was 37-0, on March 24, 1950. Marciano, a slight underdog, won by a ten-round split decision.

On October 26, 1951, with 37 wins and 32 knockouts under his belt, Marciano faced former World Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis and knocked him out in the eighth round. Louis was his boyhood idol, and Marciano cried in Louis's dressing room after the fight.

Five fights later, on September 23, 1952, Marciano got a shot at World Heavyweight Champion Jersey Joe Walcott. In the thirteenth round, behind on points, Marciano knocked Walcott out with a short right to the jaw to win the championship.

Marciano's first title defense was a rematch with Walcott. On May 15, 1953, he knocked Walcott out in the first round. Marciano's second title defense was another rematch. On September 24, 1953, he knocked out Roland LaStarza in eleven rounds.

On June 17, 1954, Marciano defeated Ezzard Charles by a fifteen-round unanimous decision. Afterwards, Marciano said, "It was my toughest fight." Marciano fought Charles again on September 17, 1954, and almost lost the championship. In the sixth round, Charles cut Marciano's nose so badly that his corner couldn't stop the bleeding. With the ring doctor watching the cut closely and considering stopping the fight, Marciano came on strong in the eighth round and knocked Charles out.

Marciano defended his title against Don Cockell on May 16, 1955, knocking him out in nine rounds. His sixth and final title defense was against Archie Moore on September 21, 1955. Marciano was dropped in the second round, but he came back to knock Moore out in the ninth round.

On April 27, 1956, Marciano retired from boxing at the age of 31. "I am retiring because of my wife and baby,” Marciano said in his retirement statement. "No man can say what he will do in the future, but barring poverty, the ring has seen the last of me. I am comfortably fixed, and I am not afraid of the future."

Friends of Marciano have said his physical condition also played a part in his decision to retire. Marciano had fought with a ruptured disc in his back since August 1949 and had suffered from an arthritic right elbow since 1951.

Many believe the main reason Marciano retired was because of his relationship with manager Al Weill. In April 1956, the chief investigator for the California Governor's special committee investigating boxing accused promoter Jimmy Murray of shortchanging Marciano and Don Cockell in their title fight and paying $10,000 "on the side" to Weill. Both Murray and Weill denied the allegations. Marciano allegedly said, "I don't care what it cost me, but I will never fight for this guy [Weill] again and let him scalp me."

On August 31, 1969, one day shy of what would have been his forty-sixth birthday, Marciano boarded a small plane with the pilot and one other passenger for a flight from Chicago to a speaking engagement in Des Moines, Iowa. The plane crashed in a field near Newton, Iowa, killing all three men on board.

Marciano was survived by his wife of 19 years, Barbara, and their two children, Mary Anne and Rocco Kevin.

Amateur Record

Record: 9-4, with 7 knockouts

  • April 15, 1946 - Henry Lester, L DQ 3
  • 1947 National Junior AAU Heavyweight Championship in Portland, Oregan. Results:
    • Aug 22 - Frederic Ross, KO 1
    • Aug 23 - Richard Jarvis, KO 1
    • Aug 23 - Joe DeAngelis, L 3
  • 1947 Massachusetts State Amateur Heavyweight Championship in Boston, Massachusetts. Results:
    • Jan 17 - Jim Connolly, KO 1
    • Jan 17 - Bob Girard, L 3
  • 1948 Massachusetts/Rhode Island Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship in Lowell, Massachusetts. Results:
    • Feb 2 - Dan Solomont, TKO 1
    • Feb 9 - Charles Mortimer, KO 3
  • 1948 New England Tournament of Champions in Lowell, Massacusetts. Results
    • Feb 17 - Ralph Piscopo, WO (Piscopo didn't show up)
    • Feb 18 - George McInnis, TKO 1
  • 1948 All Eastern Coast Golden Gloves Championship in Brooklyn, New York. Result:
  • 1948 New England AAU Heavyweight Championship in Boston, Massachusetts. Results:
    • Mar 22 - Sal Fichera, KO 3
    • Mar 22 - George McInnis - W 3

Record Issues:
Some sources say Marciano knocked out Joe Sidlaskis in the first round on February 2, 1948, as part of the Massachusetts/Rhode Island Golden Gloves Tournament. However, Victor Sidlaskas, not Joe Sidlaskis, competed in the novice division, while Marciano fought in the open division.

Some reports incorrectly list Sal Fichera as Fred Fischera and George McInnis as George McGinnis.

Marciano's bouts against Fichera and McInnis have incorrectly been reported as being part of the Olympic Trials.

Awards and Recognition

Trivia

  • Marciano caught pneumonia as a toddler and nearly died.
  • Marciano once had been a client of the Charles Atlas training program.
  • During his sophomore year as a linebacker on the highly-ranked Brockton High School football team, Marciano intercepted a pass and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown.
  • Marciano had the shortest reach of all World Heavyweight Champions — only 68 inches.

External Links


Preceded by:
Jersey Joe Walcott
World Heavyweight Champion
NBA World Heavyweight Champion
NYSAC World Heavyweight Champion

1952 Sep 23 – 1956 Apr 27
Retired
Succeeded by:
Floyd Patterson