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Rocky Marciano: A Tribute to a Legend

March 10, 2004  Vito Trabucco
Sure, you will say, “Trabucco you’re an Italian so of course you love Marciano”. That’s true, but I’m not writing this because of that reason alone, but ever since I was a little kid, I remembered my dad had the famous picture of Marciano knocking out Jersey Joe Walcott hanging above our fireplace. I could never stop staring at it. Today, I have that same picture in my home years later and never seem to stop staring at it.

On Sept. 1, 1923 Mr. and Mrs. Pierino Marchegiano of Brockton, Massachusetts became the proud parents of an extraordinarily robust baby boy. The twelve-pound child was Christened Rocco Marchegiano, but the world would one day come to know him as Rocky Marciano.

Marciano had to fight practically since the start of his life. He contracted pneumonia when he was he was only a year old, and he almost did not survive. But Marciano was a strong baby, and he was able to overcome the infection.

By the time the Rock made it to highschool, he made the school's baseball team as a catcher, but was told he was slow and moved to right field. Shortly after, Rocky joined a church league, violating a school rule that players could not join other teams. Cut from his school's team, Rocky then dropped out of highschool.

Rocky ended up playing semi-pro baseball, and he was signed by the Chicago Cubs to a minor league contract. But, while playing in a minor league team, he heard his coach say that none of the players on his team would ever make it to the big leagues. Rocky took this personally and soon returned to Brockton, where he felt dejected by the whole baseball system and started training with his sights set on becoming a professional boxer. There, he met Allie Colombo, a man who put Rocky on a very strong training regime.

On March 17, 1947 , Rocky finally stepped into the ring as a professonal competitor for the first time. That night, he beat Lee Epperson by a knockout in three rounds. The legend had arrived.

In 1951, Marciano became a household name with his 8th round knockout of former Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis on national television.

It was time for the Rock to challenge for the unltimate prize in the sport. The date was September 23, 1952 and his opponent was Jersey Joe Walcott who he met in Philadelphia. After being dropped in round one, Marciano got up and knocked Walcott out in the thirteenth round (which later became the picture above my fireplace), becoming the World Heavyweight Champion. A rematch was fought one year later and, in Marciano's first title defense, he retained the title with a first-round knockout of Walcott.
Next on his dancecard was Roland LaStarza. After building a small lead on the judges' scorecards all the way to the middle rounds, LaStarza was knocked out in eleventh round by the champion. After this defense came former World Heavyweight Champion Ezzard Charles, who Marciano beat by a decision in their first bout. After having his nose broken in round five of the rematch, Marciano retained the title with an eighth round knockout win after the referee gave him one round to do it before he was going to stop the fight. The ref said going into that last round, “I’m letting this fight go on for two reasons; One, its for the Heavyweight Championship of the World, and two, because Rock, its you.” A classic moment in boxing history.

In his last bout, Marciano got up off the canvas in round two to retain his title by a knockout in nine rounds against the equally-legendary former Light-Heavyweight Champion of the World, Archie Moore.

Marciano retired with 49 wins no losses and 43 wins by knockout. He still remains the only undefeated Heavyweight Champion who ever lived.

Marciano managed his money well after his retirement, and he lived a comfortable life the rest of his days. He hosted a weekly boxing show on TV, and lived in a mansion. Rumors that one of his trainers, Al Weill, had connections to the mafia surfaced later and, according to the rumors, Rocky hated the fact Weill was “connected.”

Rocky got his pilot's license, and in 1969, while flying home from a business meeting, his plane developed engine trouble and crashed, killing him. He was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Cemetery in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

When asked by reporters how he was going to do before every fight, Rocky always answered in his New England accent, “Well I’m going to give it my best shot.” Nothing more. Nothing less.

Maybe that’s what life is all about “giving it your best shot.” It never failed Marciano. And that’s all we can expect out of ourselves. To give it our best shot.

I just want to say thanks to Rocky Marciano for showing me how a champion lives in and out of the ring. I hope this column serves him justice. I gave it my best shot.

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