When Floyd Mayweather announced his retirement from boxing after defeating Andre Berto, he left with a perfect 49-0 record. It rekindled the spirit of the original undefeated American boxing star, Rocky “The Brockton Blockbuster” Marciano, who left the game at the same point in his career.
During an age where a great white hype was needed to satiate the masses who were tired of the Jack Johnson and Joe Louis narratives, Marciano provided an unofficial salve to white racial wounds.
Rocco Francis Marchegiano was the fighting pride of Brockton, Massachusetts, a town that would later call middleweight great “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler its champion. Born of immigrant Italian parents, Marciano was drafted into the United States Army where he served for two years. Stationed in places like Swansea, Wales, he helped ferry supplies across the English Channel to Normandy. After the war ended, he completed his service at Fort Lewis, Washington.
Marciano is the rare boxer to step out of the amateur ranks for one professional fight then returned back to the amateurs. While awaiting discharge he won the 1946 Amateur Armed Forces boxing tournament. You think current top welterweight contender Shawn Porter is a pressure fighter? Marciano was the definition of pressure, combining brawler and slugger within that narrative.
After an unsuccessful attempt to join the Fayetteville Cubs, a farm team for the Chicago Cubs, Marciano decided to re-enter boxing as a pro. He won his first 16 bouts by knockout, all before the fifth round. Nine of those knockouts came in the first round.
The Marciano fury was showcased on national television for the first time when he knocked out Rex Layne (34–1–2) in six rounds on July 12, 1951. This led to the biggest fight of his career at the time on October 27, 1951, when the 28-year-old Marciano took on the 37-year-old Joe Louis. Coming into the bout, Marciano was a 13-to-10 underdog. Marciano not only defeated “The Brown Bomber” but also gave him his retirement bout.
After four more wins, Marciano received an opportunity to fight for the heavyweight title against then champion, “Jersey” Joe Walcott.
Walcott dropped Marciano in the first round and steadily built a points lead. In the 13th, the reigning champ set up a right hand, but Marciano's glancing right hook landed first, sending Walcott to his knees with his arm draped over the ropes. He lay motionless long after he had been counted out and Marciano became the new World Heavyweight Champion. At the time of the stoppage, Walcott was leading on all scorecards, 8–4, 7–5, and 7–4.
The rematch was immediately booked and this time the inevitable happened even faster as Walcott tasted the canvas in the first round. Marciano's last title bout was against a 38-year-old Archie Moore, on September 21, 1955 in Yankee Stadium. Marciano was knocked down for a four-count in the second round, but recovered and retained his title with a knockout in round nine. At the age of 32, he announced his retirement from boxing and never came back.
Unlike Floyd Mayweather, Marciano was no defensive genius. In fact, his lack of finesse was a trademark. However, he made up for this shortcomings with brute force and raw power. As the opposition got better, Marciano relied on his incredible stamina and relentlessness.
Known for one of the best chins in boxing history, he took a licking and would come back to usually knock his opponent out.
As we celebrate the life and legacy of Rocky Marciano, understand that his way was one of sheer abandon, forging his legend through raw ability, desire, a lot of heart, an indomitable will and a very dangerous set of hands.