Boxing

The Great Rocky Marciano, He Would Have Been 85-Years-Old Today!

01.09.08 - by James Slater - Eighty-five years ago today, September 1st 1923, one of the most beloved of all heavyweight champions was born in Brockton, Massachusetts, USA. Born Rocco Francis Marchegiano, the future heavyweight king became known to the world as Rocky Marciano. Some old timers will tell you Rocky went on to become the best heavyweight champion of all-time!

Certainly, as fight fans are aware, Marciano's statistics were perfect. Retiring unbeaten at 49-0 - surely the most famous numbers in heavyweight boxing - "The Rock" won every pro fight he had..

A sickly baby (Rocky contracted pneumonia and almost died before he was two-years-old), Marciano recovered and relied on his freakish strength and unbelievable resiliency when he was fighting. Turning pro in March of 1947 (July 1948 for good, as a single pro win was followed by a further series of amateur bouts, one of which he lost on points, to Coley Wallace), the 24-year-old heavyweight worked his way towards a world title fight. Fighting at an extremely active pace, with an astonishing 11 fights coming in 1948 alone, Rocky ran over almost everyone he met in the ring. Fast becoming a fan favourite due to his action style and KO punching power, Marciano had two particularly memorable fights during this time.

Firstly, in December of 1949, in only his second fight in New York (most of his early fights took place in Providence, Rhode Island), Rocky met and almost killed Carmine Vingo. Then, in his very next fight, also in New York, Marciano had all he could handle against Roland La Starza - winning a ten-round split decision that many people felt he'd lost. These two would meet again.

Now 25-0(22), Rocky was getting nearer and nearer to the world title, then just having been declared vacant due to the retirement of the superb Joe Louis. A further 11 wins followed, before Rocky was matched with the former champion, who had been forced out of retirement by financial needs put on him by the quite disgusting actions of the IRS. Sad at having to take on the great "Brown Bomber," who was now way past his best, Marciano cried after KO'ing the 37-year-old Louis in the 8th round. Joe never fought again.

For Rocky there were a further four wins, before he finally got a title shot, fighting the crafty Jersey Joe Walcott for the championship on the day of his birthday in 1952. The rest, as they say, is history. Rocky was put down in the very 1st round, but came back to stop a leading Walcott in fine style in the 13th round. Crunching Walcott with his famous "Suzy Q" right hand, Marciano was the champ at 43 seconds of the 13th round.

Only six successful defences followed, which is a factor that serves to keep some experts from listing Marciano in the top-five of greatest-ever heavyweight champions. Also a knock on Rocky, through no fault of his own, was the fact that he met a lot of veteran opponents in his reign as champ. Walcott, aged 39, was beaten for a second time, this time in one round, as was light-heavyweight standout Ezzard Charles, aged 33. Both Charles fights were epic encounters, with fight one being a close 15-rounder and the rematch being a fight that almost saw Rocky have his nose sliced off his face - courtesy of "The Cincinnati Cobra's" punches.

Before coming through these battles Rocky, by now aged 30, had also seen off the challenge of the man who had pushed him so hard back before he was champion, in La Starza. This time Marciano stopped his man in 11 rounds, giving La Starza a real going over in the process. Try and protect yourself from Marciano's blows to the head by keeping your guard up and "The Rock" would beat on your arms so badly you'd suffer broken blood vessels. La Starza found this out firsthand in September of 1953.

A 9th round TKO win over Britain's brave Don Cockell, who took a beating along with an assortment of fouls, followed the two bouts with Charles, before Rocky's final fight. Stopping light-heavyweight champion Archie Moore, all 41-years of him, in the 9th round on September 21st, 1955, Marciano was to suffer his second career knockdown. Again put down early - in the 2nd round - the soon-to-be 32-year-old climbed back up and knocked the fight out of "The Ole Mongoose," sending the crafty old man down a number of times before the end.

And then it was over. With a perfect record of 49-0(43) and after having reigned as champion for two days shy of three years, Rocky quit. Citing back problems and family pressures as the reasons for his retirement, the incredibly popular fighter who had grown to become known as "The Brockton Blockbuster" made good with his decision. There would be no ill-fated comeback for this great fighter.

It's quite amazing to think Rocky, who sadly died in a plane crash on the eve of his 46th birthday, would have been an 85-year-old man today. While the debate as to just how great he was would have continued had Rocky lived to see the exploits of fighters like Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis, what would also have remained the same is his popularity.

Put him where you want in your top-ten, but concede that Rocky Marciano was a fighter who always gave his all for fight fans - both in and out of the ring. Happy birthday Rocky, a fighter who will live in the minds of his fans forever!

Article posted on 02.09.2008



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