|Born||Sep. 1, 1923
|Died||Aug. 31, 1969 (at age 45)
Near Newton, Iowa
Rocky Marciano was a famous professional boxer and world heavyweight champion. He is famous for his enviable undefeated and untied boxing record.
Rocky Marciano’s real name was Rocco Francis Marchegianon. He was born in 1923 in Brockton, Massachusetts to parents Pasqualina Picciuto and Pierino Marchegiano, who were both Italian immigrants. At the time of his birth, Rocky weighed 12 pounds, which made him an extraordinarily healthy and robust boy.
At that time, no one would have imagined that this heavy weight kid would one day go on to become a heavyweight boxer. At the age of 18 months, Marciano had a severe death scare when he contracted pneumonia. However, doctors claimed that his strong constitution and immunity enabled him to survive the illness.
Creating a Champion
Marciano had three sisters and two brothers. The family lived close to the James Edger playground where he used to play baseball as a kid. As young boy, he started working out with homemade weights and doing chin-ups. Marciano was always a strong kid and his extensive workouts made him even stronger for his age. His physical strength also helped him in other sports as well. Rocky attended Brockton High School and used to play football and baseball as a kid for his school team and outside of the school.
Marciano dropped out of the school when he was in the tenth grade and started doing small time jobs, one of which was a floor sweeper at a shoe factory. He also worked as a ditch digger and a shoemaker. Later on, Marciano enrolled in the U.S. Army and he was sent to Wales where he ferried military supplies between the English Channel and Normandy. In March of 1946, he completed his services at Fort Lewis, Washington.
Marciano went on to marry his girlfriend, Barbara Cousins. He acknowledged at in some of his earlier fights, the thought of impressing Barbara and her friends motivated him.
Marciano began fighting as a professional boxer on July 12, 1948, winning a fight against Harry Bilizarian. Marciano showed raw talent and forceful strength, both of which were visible in first fights that he won by knockouts, with nine of them before the first round, and none lasting past five rounds.
Marciano made his first major impact on boxing in 1950 when he defeated Roland La Starza, an unbeaten heavyweight prospect. In October of 1951, he fought against his childhood idol, Joe Louis, and defeated him in the last fight of Louis’s career.
On September 23, 1952, Marciano fought against Jersey Joe Walcott, a 38-year old champion, for the world heavyweight title. Marciano overcame the first-round knockdown to win the title in the thirteenth round, knocking out Walcott with an accurate right punch. The punch was later referred to as his “Susie Q.”
In 1953, Marciano defeated Ronald La Starza in the eleventh round. This fight became popular as the 1953 Ring Magazine Fight of the Year.
Later Career and Retirement
Marciano’s last title fight was against Archie Moore, a 41-year old boxing champion. The fight that was originally scheduled for September 20 was actually performed one day later on September 21, 1955, due to hurricane warnings. Marciano retained his title with a knockout in round nine.
Marciano retired on April 27, 1956, due to persistent back pain. He was 32 at the time, and he had defended his championship six times. During his entire boxing career, he won an unrivaled 49 straight fights, 43 of which were by knockouts. He was the only heavyweight boxing champion to retire completely undefeated.
An unscientific but hard-punching fighter, he completely dominated the heavyweight division. In 1990, he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
After his official retirement, Marciano entered the television industry, first appearing the television show Combat! . He also hosted a boxing show for a brief period. He continued as a referee and commentator in boxing matches for several years.
On August 31, 1969, at the age of 46, Marciano died in a tragic place crash. He was on board a small private jet, a Cessna, flying to Des Moines. It was nighttime and the weather conditions were bad. The pilot had limited experience of flying at night and in bad weather conditions. In an effort to land the place at a small airfield near Newton, Iowa, the pilot hit a tree before the runway, killing him in the crash.