“The Rock,” Rocky Marciano is the greatest heavyweight in boxing history, so say many experts, fans and historians – Tough beyond belief and as fearless as he was dedicated (did anyone ever train harder, more punishingly than Marciano?), Rocky seemed to have no obvious weaknesses and the old timers who had the incredibly good fortune of being alive at the time and able to watch “The Brockton Blockbuster” go to work, swear it was impossible for him to ever lose a fight.
Marciano tragically lost his life half a century ago today, August 31st in 1969, one day before his 46th birthday. Rocky went down in an airplane crash, his life, his hard earned retirement years cut short by a cruel twist of fate. Yet Rocky is remembered, he always will be.
Rocky was a truly great, great fighter; a man who scarcely took a backwards step, never badmouthed anyone and never looked for an easy or safe fight. Rocky is not without his critics, of course, and some say his four year title reign was littered with fights against “old men.” Charles was 33, Moore was 41 and Jersey Joe was 37 – but these same critics cannot point a single finger at a single fighter Rocky ducked or dodged.
Marciano fought whoever he had to and he beat the hell out of them. In doing so, Marciano forever earned a place – a special place, one only a rare handful of fighters ever have the privilege of holding – in the hearts of fight fans. Rocky went to places we mere mortals could never comprehend, and he did it in the name of honour and in search of victory.
The manner in which he fought so honourably, for so long, never once putting a foot wrong, places Marciano on the Mount Rushmore of boxing (along with Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali). Indeed, Rocky conquered mountains.
15 round fights, no arguments, or say, in who the judges or the referee would be, no say in what type of gloves would be used, fighting at a far more active pace per annum, and, to top it all off, giving nothing but exciting fights each and every time out. This is Rocky’s legacy; this and his untouched record of being the only heavyweight king to have retired with a perfect, unbeaten record.
There have been other fighters named Rocky and there surely will be more in the future, but there will never be another Rocky Marciano. Had he lived, he would be 95 today, 96 tomorrow. Happy birthday, champion of champions!