**It is the heart, tenacity, and toughness in the ring of this man, Rocky Marciano, I identify with so much. Through all odds he refused to quit or resign himself to defeat. This same grit, that same trait is what we all need to have instilled within us for success because without it we will wither away.
“I never thought he’d make it. He was too old, almost twenty-five. He was too short, he was too light. He had no reach. Rough and tough but no finesse.” – Noted fight trainer Goody Petronelli
“He was relentless. The bell would ring, he would be on you. The bell would ring, he stopped. Again, the bell would ring again, he’d be right back on you.” – Former heavyweight champ George Foreman
“Rocky couldn’t box like Gene Tunney, and probably couldn’t hit like Joe Louis, but in one respect he had no challenger. He was the toughest, strongest, most completely dedicated fighter who ever wore gloves. Fear wasn’t in his vocabulary and pain had no meaning.” – Pulitzer Prize winner Red Smith
“After a fight with Marciano, you felt like someone had been beating you all over your body with a blackjack, or hitting you with rocks.” – Boxer/opponent Archie Moore
Rocky Marciano was born Rocco Francis Marchegiano, on September 1st 1923 in Brockton, Massachusetts to Italian immigrants; father Pierino, who worked in a shoe factory, and mother Pasqualena. Rocky had two goals in mind while growing up in Brockton. One, he didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps and work in a show factory. Two, he wanted to be a major league catcher. Funny how things work out for the typical American kid, playing baseball and football and dreaming of a professional career in one of those two sports.
Fast forward to 1943 when he took up boxing while in the Army mainly as a way to avoid KP duty and other less desirable activities. Showing a natural ability though, he fought as an amateur following his discharge in 1946.
Then in 1947, Marciano had a tryout with the Chicago Cubs as a catcher. He was let go because he wasn’t able to make an accurate throw from home plate to second base. His baseball dreams ended.
The following year he turned pro in the boxing ring.
Journey Into Boxing
In the spring of 1949, his skills in the ring started garnering him some attention as he knocked out his first sixteen opponents. The quality of his challengers had improved from late 1949 to 1950. He continued his domination of beating each of them and knocking most of them out.
Rocky Marciano would eventually go onto an impressive record of 43 knockouts in 49 fights.
That would have been the furthest from most people’s minds when he first started as the odds of him succeeding as a boxer seemed in line with him succeeding as a ball player for the Cubs. He was a crude barroom brawler type. As a heavyweight he was too short (5 feet 10 inches + ¼). He was too light (183 to 189 lbs) for most of his fights. And with a reach of only 68 inches he was a distinct disadvantage as no heavyweight champ ever had such a short reach.
But, how does one measure a person’s heart? Marciano possibly had the largest in the sport. He refused to stay down, he refused to lose. He may be bloodied, but he refused to be beaten. A pure heart.
The Brockton boxer also had an amazing resilience to punishment. He was just as destructive as administering that punishment in return. His chin seemed to be stuff legends are made of, cast in concrete; impenetrable. His aggressiveness inside that ring was ceaseless. Rocky was a human tank. One who would and could absorb two or three powerful punches from his opponents just to be able to land one with his thunderous right, which was aptly named Suzie Q.
Heavyweight Championship Bout
On September 23rd 1952, Marciano faced heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott. The bout took place in Philadelphia and per his typical tough-guy, never-say-die style, Rocky out a victory.
Rocky was way behind on points in the 12th round and frustrated by the champ which caused him to struggle offensively all night. Rocky managed to catch the champion Walcott with a short yet devastating overhand right on the jaw in the 13th round. It knocked Walcott unconscious, thus winning Marciano the championship belt.
After, Marciano only defended the title six times with some of those fights are considered classics by fans. Then on April 27th 1956 he retired from boxing. He had an undefeated record at 49 and 0 at the young age of 31.
Although he may not rank today in the top five boxers of all time in terms of skill, speed, or power, Marciano was tough enough to compensate, and had some serious grit.
During his time as a boxer physical conditioning was his forte. Rocky was addicted to exercise as it boosted his stamina. This created problems for his opponents and played a huge role in the knockout of Jersey Joe Walcott for the title.
Tragically on August 31st, 1969, a day before his 46th birthday, Rocky Marciano perished in a small plane crash in a Newton, Iowa cornfield.
“Something’s gone out of my life. I’m not alone; something’s gone out of everyone’s life.” Said Joe Louis at the funeral, who had famously fought Marciano years early by coming out of retiring.
Visit the official Rocky Marciano website for more information. https://www.rockymarciano.net/about/bio.htm