The 1963 issue of Boxing Illustrated claimed: “Marciano’s knockout blow packs more explosive energy than an armour-piercing bullet and represents as much energy as would be required to spot lift 1000 pounds one foot off the ground.”  Although this sort of ‘science’ was probably conducted by zealous Marciano fans, it is undeniably true that Rocky hit really hard.) 

After knocking out an old Joe Louis, Rocky got a title shot. Before the fight Marciano met with a priest, who after their meeting said: “That boy is no ordinary prizefighter, he is one of the most dignified, straightforward people I have ever met in my life. Walcott collapsed to the canvas and was counted out. He would interrupt his training schedule to attend Mass. They all lived in a two bedroom apartment. He would never be a classic boxer, but he worked unceasingly at improving his craft, and trained relentlessly. He golfed with priests, helped promote parish functions, even lunched with Cardinal Spellman. Life magazine called him “pure of speech” and “a clean living boy.” He was elsewhere described as “astonishingly innocent,” and “totally without deception, totally without guile.” He didn’t drink or smoke; in fact, when a host at a party for Marciano in Brockton offered the champ a drink, Rocky replied, “If you don’t mind, I’ll take an apple.” 

Everett M. There would be good food, a nice check for a few words, and still enough time to fly back for his birthday. Walcott bounced off and threw a hard left hand. At the last minute Rocky decided to squeeze in an appearance at a steak house in Des Moines, Iowa. He usually didn’t pay anything for his cross-country trips: no plane fare, hotel fare, or meals. He was awkward in the ring. Although he left thousands (some claim hundred of thousands) of dollars stashed away or buried underground, none of it was found to aid Barbara and the children, who were impoverished after Rocky’s death.

He and Lena settled in Brockton, a small city twenty miles south of Boston. His wife, Barbara, was unable to have the large family Rocky wanted. Skehan, Rocky Marciano, Biography of a First Son, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1977. 

Marciano was “a kind and decent man.”, He was “inherently a decent, righteous and truly wonderful guy…His innate decency and wholesomeness shine through in a dedicated glow.” Or: “We never cease to be amazed at the humility of Rocky Marciano…he treats everyone if they were the celebrity and he the awed little guy.” Another writer called him “probably the humblest of heavyweight champions.”  Said another: “He reminds you of a great, friendly collie …with the grin of a shy fellow happy to be recognized, at last, as a member of the gang in good standing.” He was “the gentlest athlete I have ever known,” and again: “a man of simplicity and sincerity.”

Marchegiano went to New York and met Al Weill, a boxing manager who tried to Americanize his name. And Brockton loved him right back, at least in part because many of them became rich betting on Rocky’s fights. 

On August 31, 1969, Marciano planned to interrupt his business circuit and fly back to Florida to celebrate his forty-sixth birthday with his family. He boarded a small, single engine Cessna. He made sure the people who invited him paid for everything.

Five months after Marciano’s death “The Superfight” debuted in theaters. An obituary in his home state of Massachusetts read:

Rocky was generous with people who were down and out, often giving them unsecured loans that were rarely paid back. The famous sportswriter Jimmy Cannon observed that Marciano trained “like a man practicing a holy ritual.” Before fights he would slip away to a church or chapel to pray. His marriage was strained. Rocco inherited his father’s toughness, for he survived a deadly bout of pneumonia when he was two. Ali complained about his ‘loss’, alleging the computer was made in Alabama. 

Lena prayed to St. He had no boxing skills. Marciano’s body was found pinned beneath the wreckage. Walcott’s experience kept Marciano off-balance and sometimes made him look ridiculous. She and her friends prayed the Rosary at the child’s bedside and waited. Yet he used a wire to try to get coins back he used to make telephone calls. It was an incredible run. When he wasn’t playing sports he was running and exercising.

The answer: Rocky Marciano, heavyweight boxing champion from 1952 to 1956, when at age thirty-three he retired with a perfect record (49-0, with 43 knockouts). He backed Walcott into the ropes. And he could be incredibly tight with a buck. He  hit his opponents on the break, after the bell, and below the belt. Rocco refused but eventually he tired of having his name misspelled and mispronounced, and allowed his name to be shortened to Rocky Marciano. Once he hit a man so hard he almost killed him. After the Rock retired he kept running.

As he continued to successfully defend his title, Marciano gradually drew respect from critics. Asked about his reaction when flying shrapnel hit his jaw and snapped off some teeth, Pierino replied, “I just spit them out and kept coming.” 

Marciano’s character was on display in his first fight with Walcott, which was a classic. He was undersized for a heavyweight. Several opponents quit boxing after being knocked out by Marciano. A few minutes later she came out complaining: “What is he, crazy? He didn’t want anything to do with me.” Marciano seemed more comfortable in the company of clergy than actresses. Stallone credited Chuck Wepner’s losing effort in a fight with Muhammed Ali as the inspiration for the film, yet the similarities of Rocky Balboa to Rocky Marciano are numerous and obvious. 

The doctor was wrong. He was invited to the White House to meet the President. Marciano stepped inside and beat Walcott to the punch with a short right hand that traveled maybe eight inches. Rocky slowly became a better boxer, but it was his punching power that kept him undefeated. Rocco’s biggest limitation was arms so short they were almost stubby. Anthony before his first title fight, read The Confessions of St. Rocky seemed too busy to be home.

Perhaps it was his simplicity that allowed him to retire after beating everyone worth fighting. She smoked too, and developed a glandular problem. Although he enjoyed being champion, Marciano remained unchanged. Then Rocky and Ali sparred 70 rounds for the camera, simulating different endings to the fight. The pilot had not flown at night before, became confused by the bad weather, and attempted to land in a field rather than the Newton airport. 

Outwardly Marciano’s life after boxing was quite successful – unlike many fighters, he kept his money and his wits. Rocky never wrote anything down, he tried to keep track of his loans in his head, and sometimes forgot who owed him, and how much. Jude’s oil while in his corner waiting for the start of that fight. 

Far behind on points late in the fight, Rocky needed a knockout to win. One sportswriter said Marciano brought the “austere, sackcloth-and -ashes approach of a monk” to his training. The people of the world should be informed of this boy’s character and personality.” 

Marciano died without a will. Ali later said that Marciano punched so hard he was sore for days after. Marciano went back into training and bought a toupee. The Marchegiano’s had five more children after Rocco: Alice, Connie, Elizabeth, Louis, and Peter. He even had a role in a movie. It hit Walcott’s jaw with the sound of a baseball bat. He retained his public life, crisscrossing across the country to give speeches, participate in benefits, and conduct business. Pierino’s exposure to mustard gas during combat changed his life, but not his toughness. They had one daughter, but Barbara miscarried when Rocky was away, and wasn’t able to have any more children, although the two did adopt a boy (Rocky Jr.). The man recovered, but never fought again.

(An experiment was performed on Rocky’s punching power. The champion was Jersey Joe Walcott, a ring veteran most experts picked to beat Marciano easily. Yet his retirement years revealed a man who seemed simple, but often was not.

Maybe Rocky ran to avoid an estranged relationship with Barbara. Once, as a joke, the reigning sex symbol, Jayne Mansfield, was smuggled into a room where Marciano sat, alone. His friends said the only thing Rocky was afraid of was being poor. Anthony for her son’s recovery, promising to give up her diamond engagement ring if Rocco recovered. Until Rocco put Brockton on the national map, his hometown was best known for its shoe factories. The pilot and his two passengers were instantly killed. Ali was in retirement too, after having his title stripped for refusing the draft. The sparring film would be spliced together to match the computer outcome of the fight – a closely guarded secret that would not be revealed until “The Superfight” aired in theaters.

Russell Sullivan, Rocky Marciano, The Rock of His Times, 2002, University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago.

 Which heavyweight boxing champion in the last century knelt on his knees to pray to St. At the time boxing was a diversion, a way to make a few bucks to help out his family. The computer’s result: Marciano knocked out Ali in the thirteenth round. Rocco was in his twenties, when most fighters hit their peak. Sometimes he would cover his chin and hands with St. Augustine before defending his title, and said: “The biggest thrill I could think of would be an audience with the pope?” 

Rocky was an old school Catholic. Rocky was a brawler. He didn’t trust lawyers or accountants, and preferred to deal in cash. Rocky didn’t trust banks, either, so he hid his cash: in the ground, inside toilet tanks, in light fixtures. Rocky kept coming, even after Walcott knocked him down, closed his left eye, and opened cuts on his face that required fourteen stitches to close.


“In this age of the anti-hero and the non-hero, Rocky Marciano was the hero with whom the mass of Americans could readily identify, the hero who surmounted all difficulties by dint of hard work, dedication and perseverance. Then he was cut from the Chicago Cubs farm system. Even as champion he came to the ring in a robe bearing the colors of BrocktonHigh School (even though he dropped out in the tenth grade). Rocco slept in the living room with the windows open, even in the winter, as if in defiance of his bout with pneumonia.

Not that there is anything particularly Catholic about being a teetotaler.  It’s just that Marciano, though intelligent, was a very simple man who never forgot where he came from.

An investigation into the crash of the Cessna in NewtonIowa cited pilot inexperience as the cause of the crash. The nicest thing about being champ, he said, “is that people like you.”  Everyone but boxing experts, who found Rocky’s style too crude to suffer. Barbara missed Rocky, and drank too much. On those occasions Rocco reached opponents with his right hand, however, they fell down and didn’t get up. 

Marciano’s determination in the Walcott fight showed the world the new champion’s character and personality. It is difficult to win a fight when you can’t reach your opponent. Rocky hadn’t fought or trained for fourteen years. He was a near-classic example of the triumph of classic virtues (Boston Herald Traveler, September, 1969).” 

After serving as a GI in World War II, Rocco played minor league baseball. His parents loved opera, ate Italian food, and had wine with dinner. At the time many children died of pneumonia, but Rocco eventually recovered, and Lena kept her promise.

He was born Rocco Francis Marchegiano (Mark a-jahn-o) on September 1, 1923, the second son (the first died shortly after childbirth) of Pierino and Lena Marchegiano, first generation Italian immigrants who came to America after the first World War. He even used a coat hanger to stuff money inside curtain rods.

While sportswriters criticized Marciano’s boxing shortcomings, no one criticized his character, as the following quotes show:

Rocky ran from an early age. Lena’s doctor said she could have no more children; this put a fine edge on her concern for Rocco’s health.

His upbringing was steeped in Italian customs and traditions. He was famous, successful, and well thought of. 

* * * 

He rarely saw his wife and children; or his parents, brothers, and sisters. The pilot landed the plane in a field in Newton, Iowa, and rammed into a lone tree in the middle of the field. As a boy Rocco was preoccupied with his physical condition. Equally unique, Marciano never came out of retirement to challenge subsequent champions, a temptation very few ex-champions have overcome, much less succeeded at.

In 1976 Sylvester Stallone began his “Rocky” franchise. Rocky always apologized, but the fouling continued.. There was bad weather and the plane ran low on gas. He knocked out nine of his early opponents in the first round. His fanaticism about physical conditioning,  along with his determination and punching power, led to an unequalled record for a heavyweight champion: forty-nine professional wins, no defeats, forty-three victories by knockout. He said if the man died he would quit fighting. Marciano spent hours at his opponent’s hospital bed, and in church praying for the man’s life. Yet even after he had enough money Rocky went after more. Or the estrangement may have developed over Rocky’s running, which may have sprung from a preoccupation with money. Rocky Marciano was champion.

Rocky’s last big payday was a computerized fight with Muhammed Ali in 1969

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