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Marciano glorified boxing

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
More Info on Rocky Marciano
By Fred W. Kiger
Special to

Signature Fight
Sept. 23, 1952 -In storybook fashion, Rocky triumphed in Philadelphia. Marciano, that is, not Balboa.

Unbeaten in 42 fights, the 29-year-old Marciano didn't look like a 9-5 favorite when heavyweight champ Jersey Joe Walcott knocked him down with a short left hook in the first round before 40,379 fans at Municipal Stadium. For the first time in his career, Marciano was looking up at his opponent.

The 38-year-old Walcott, a clever boxer, didn't let up, and after 12 rounds he was in total control, ahead by four rounds from one official, three by another and two by the third. Marciano needed a knockout to gain the title. Early in the 13th Marciano, though battered and bloodied, delivered one of the most devastating punches in boxing history, a short right to the side of Walcott's chin.

Walcott sunk to one knee, his left arm hooked around the middle rope, his head resting on the canvas. Jersey Joe was out, the 38th knockout victim of the Brockton Blockbuster, and Marciano was in as heavyweight champ.

Odds 'n' Ends

  • When Rocky was born, his mother received a card that pictured little boxing gloves and read, "Welcome to another champion."

  • Of Marciano's first 14 professional fights, no bout went beyond the fifth round, with nine ending in the first.

  • Marciano was a health-nut. He ate "veggies," always carried a jar of honey to sweeten his coffee and chewed but never swallowed his steaks. He even had an exercise for his eyeballs.

  • More than once Marciano sparred 250 rounds in preparation for a fight, about 100 rounds more than the norm.

  • Marciano was aware that since August 1949, he fought with a ruptured disc in his back. Since 1951 he suffered from an arthritic right elbow. The condition left his right arm slightly shorter than his left.

  • He met his wife-to-be Barbara in the spring of 1947. She was the daughter of a retired Brockton police sergeant and a telephone operator. Marciano was a ditch digger for the Brockton gas company.

  • Rocky and Barbara were married on Dec. 31, 1950 only after manager Al Weill gave his approval. Weill went as so far to mandate the length of the honeymoon and remind Barbara that boxing came first.

  • The Marcianos had one daughter, Mary Ann, and adopted a son, Rocco Kevin.

  • Before fighting his idol Joe Louis in 1951, Marciano was so relaxed he fell asleep in his locker room and had to be roused for his entrance into the arena.

  • Marciano was the first heavyweight champion from Massachusetts since John L. Sullivan 62 years earlier.

  • Only one of Marciano's seven title bouts went 15 rounds, against Ezzard Charles on June 17, 1954.

  • After his last title bout, against Archie Moore, Marciano received a postcard from the light-heavyweight champion. Moore had drawn a bull and labeled it "You" and a matador labeling it "Me." The message simply read, "Let's do it again." It would never take place as Marciano retired.

  • In his fighting career, Marciano's gross earnings were $1.7 million.

  • He received the "Star of Solidarity" from an Italian ambassador. It was the first time the honor had been conferred on anyone outside the Italian government.

  • Glenn Belz, the pilot when Marciano died in a plane crash in 1969, had logged only 35 miles of flying at night and had not been cleared to navigate by instruments.

  • Upon the discovery of Marciano's presence in the downed aircraft in Iowa, two funeral homes fought over which one would take the former champ.

  • Marciano was the second titleholder to die a violent death. Jack Johnson was killed in a car crash in June 1946 near Raleigh, N.C.

  • Shown in 1970, television producer Murry Woroner had constructed a computerized showdown between Marciano and Muhammad Ali. Marciano won on a TKO. The "bout" grossed $2.5 million.

  • Rocky Balboa of "Rocky" fame claimed Marciano as his hero.

  • When Larry Holmes had a chance to match Marciano's 49-0 professional record, he said, "I'm 35 fighting young men and he was 25 fighting old men-to-be. Rocky Marciano couldn't carry my jockstrap." In his next fight, Michael Spinks defeated Holmes on a unanimous 15-round decision.

  • After the United States Postal Service released a stamp in May 1999 bearing Rocky's likeness, one story said, "Marciano never took a lickin' like what was ahead."

  • The Boston Globe ranked Marciano fifth in a list of Top 100 New England sports figures of the 20th century.

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