A few words for Rocky

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A few words for Rocky
A few words for Rocky. Photo: Courtesy

A few words for Rocky

by ,
A few words for Rocky
A few words for Rocky. Photo: Courtesy

This is not the fictional Rocky Balboa, the 1976 famous film written and starring Silvester Stallone which has 5 versions. These words are for another Rocky, the real life one who certainly deserves these lines. And of course he deserves them, because Rocky Marciano is an immortal name for boxing, a sport to which he gave everything and from which he received everything. His original dream was to become a famous baseball player, a goal that he changed when he was suddenly in a gym under the guidance of his lifelong manager, Charley Goldman — who would say “he’s a clumsy boy, but he hits like an animal” — when he was a teenager from Brockton, Massachusetts, and born on the first day of September 1923.

Today, the name of that anonymous young man is (so is Stallone) in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, in Canastota, New York, since 30 years ago as one of the chosen ones to the temple of the immortals of the ring in a very special and highly visited niche.

There is a good and sad reason for this note. 51 years ago, on August 31, 1969, on a private plane flight with two other people on board, the pilot and a friend, the life of Rocco Francis Marchegiano was forever extinguished. He was known by the sporting world and outside it as Rocky Marciano, a fighting name he received by chance because the announcer of one of his fights did not know how to pronounce his Italian surname properly. And he called him Rocky Marciano.

At the time of the fatal accident, he had already left the ring, after knocking out the mythical light heavyweight former champion Archie Moore, on September 21, 1955. Before Moore, he had defeated 48 other opponents, 42 before the limit. Only half a dozen -Ted Lowry resisted 20 rounds, in two fights- had managed to end up on their feet in front of that lethal machine of destruction that stuck to his opponents like a leech, always in the short distance to compensate for his 179 centimeters of height and his range of 1.73, both below the average for the heavyweight division.

The record of 49-0 makes him the only heavyweight champion in history who has never been defeated, a record that gives him a very special place in the sport of punches and blows.

It is not possible to compile such a bright career history here. Let’s say a few more things: after a dazzling campaign in the amateur field, first as a soldier in the army and then as a civilian (he became champion of the Golden Gloves tournament), on March 17, 1947, he made his professional debut against Lee Epperson under the name of Rocky Mack, for a victory in 3 out of 4 scheduled rounds.

He spun 14 knockouts in a row until Don Mogard finished on his feet in his 17th fight. Four years after the debut, the 28-year-old faced a worn-out Joe Louis, 37, on 10/25/51 and crushed him in 8 rounds. Louis was his idol and it has been said that Marciano cried in the locker room for a long time.

With 35 KOs in his pocket, on 9/23/52 he fought for the NBA Heavyweight crown (later WBA in 1962 ) against Jersey Joe Walcott. It was a bloody fight, both were cut in the face, and that left him with the belt on his hands in the 13th round. He defended it against the same J.J.W (KO1, 15/5/53), Roland La Starza (TKO11, 24/9/53), Ezzard Charles (2 times, 17/6/54 and 17/9/54. He won in 15 and by TKO8), Don Cockell (KO9, 16/5/55), and Archie Moore (KO9). Shortly after that he said goodbye.

In 1970 he was no longer there for the presentation of his virtual computer fight against Muhammad Ali. The machine gave the victory to Marciano by knockout in the 13th. In one of his many sparkling starts, Ali would say as the result became public that “that computer was white. Naturally, he had to win”.

One year earlier, on August 31, 1969, the eve of his 49th birthday, he took a small private plane to DesMoines, Iowa, to give a talk as a special guest. Rocky Marciano, the famous and never defeated world champion of all weights, never arrived at his destination.


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