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Rocky Marciano: The Italian Champ Born in the USA

Undefeated. Unbeatable. The greatest, ever. That was Rocky Marciano (1923-1969), the only heavyweight in boxing history who ended his career with no defeats: 49 fights won, including 43 by knockout. Those knockout wins included matches with Joe Louis and Rex Layne, two of the best boxers of all time. Among those who tried to snatch his champion belt were La Starza, Ezzard Charles, Don Cockell, and Archie Moore, but all had to surrender to Rocky's blows. Rocky Marciano bludgeoned every top heavyweight of his era before leaving professional boxing in 1956.

His record of 49 consecutive winning fights was only beaten by Floyd Mayweather on August 26, 2017, against Conor McGregor: 61 years later! Here's how Rocco became Rocky.

Born on September 1, 1923, Rocco Francis Marchegiano simplified his name to Rocky Marciano for his boxing career. As we remember his birth in Brockton, Massachusetts, 100 years ago this month, we also sadly recall that he died young at forty-five. The sports icon spent his childhood playing baseball with his two brothers and three sisters, and then the discovery of a gym near his home motivated him to start boxing training. He played on both the football and baseball teams at Brockton High School but dropped out of school before graduating.

In 1943 he was drafted into the army, and after the end of the war in 1946 he ended his term at Fort Lewis, Washington. Representing the Navy, Rocky scored his first victory in the Armed Forces’ amateur boxing tournament in 1946. His amateur career ended on March 17, 1947, when he stepped into the ring as a professional boxer for the first time and knocked out Lee Epperson in the third round. He won nineteen more fights, all but one via knockout, before his controversial match with Ted Lowry, which Rocky won by unanimous decision.

Marciano’s television match on October 26, 1951, established his fame—that night he fought former heavyweight champion Joe Louis and knocked him out in the eighth round. Louis ended his career after that fight. Marciano, commonly known as “The Rock,” then faced heavyweight champion “Jersey Joe” Walcott in Philadelphia on September 23, 1952. After being knocked down in the first round, Rocky persevered through eleven more brutal rounds. Finally, in round thirteen, he delivered a punch that knocked out Walcott and made Marciano the new world heavyweight champion.Marciano died in dramatic circumstances the day before his forty-sixth birthday, crashing with the pilot of his private plane, a Cessna 172, in Newton, Iowa. In 1990 a statue of Rocky Marciano was erected in Ripa Teatina, the town near Italy’s west coast in the region of Abruzza from which his father emigrated in the early 1900s (to make his new home in Brockton, Massachusetts).

One hundred years after the birth of the great American champion, son of Italian immigrants, Radio 24 sports journalist Dario Ricci celebrates Marciano’s life and career with his 2023 biography Rocky Marciano—sulle tracce del mito (Rocky Marciano: On the Trail of the Myth). What artifacts of Marciano’s remarkable life survive today? How is his memory preserved? Details of Marciano’s story found in Ricci’s book include his Italian roots and the mind-blowing January 1970 virtual (fake) Marciano v. Muhammad Ali Super Fight.

Marciano’s life is an emotional journey of beating the odds and never giving up, all of which inspired Sylvester Stallone to create Rocky Balboa in “The Rock’s” image and inspire new generations to appreciate the raw, rough-edged underdogs of any life path who fight from the heart.

Barbara Benzoni

 Barbara Benzoni was born in Milan and lives between Rome and Tuscany. She is devoted to USA, the land of courage and innovation. She’s Peter's super-lucky mum and Ale's wife. Cinema, art, good food and only beautiful things are the themes of her existence. With a degree in Italian literature and a Masters in Sports Management she can both enjoys books and basketball matches. In 25 years she has been organizing sport events all over the world and she’s been lucky enough to meet the greatest champs ever. Curiosity in everyday life and people are her drivers. Her personal icon is Mohammed Ali : "It's not bragging if you can back it up".