Rocky Marciano has an unusual honor, being the only Heavyweight boxer to retire without ever having tasted defeat. His record was 49-0, including 43 knockouts. He began as a pro in 1947, and was the Champ from 1952 until he retired in 1956.
Rocco Francis Marchegiano was born in 1923 in Brockton, MA, to parents in the working class. He used to take his father lunch at the shoe factory where the elder worked. He saw the way people lost their spirit in factory work, and vowed that he would never make a living in that way.
Marciano was drafted in 1943, and took up boxing in order to avoid working in the Army kitchen. After his discharge, he worked odd jobs while he tried to get into professional baseball. He tried out with the Chicago Cubs, but failed.
Marciano went back to boxing and became known as an awkward but hard-hitting fighter. He turned professional in 1947. He was not especially agile, but he had a powerful punch. He won his first 16 pro bouts by knockout. He also married the sweetheart of his childhood, Barbara Cousins, in 1950. They had one child and adopted another.
Marciano fought Joe Louis in 1951, and the former titleholder was defeated by Marciano in eight rounds. That opened the door for a title bout with Jersey Joe Walcott, the reigning Heavyweight champion. Marciano was knocked down in round one, but in the 13th round he knocked Walcott out.
Marciano defended his title six times and won every time. He retired from the boxing ring in 1956, at the age of only 31. He was tired of training, and the relationship between he and his manager, Al Weill, was tense. Weill was taking 50-percent of all Rocky’s earnings. Marciano then had more time to spend with his family. He had managed his winnings carefully, so that he did not have to fight past his prime. He almost made a comeback in 1959, and even trained in secret, but decided against it.
Marciano is the only Heavyweight championship boxer to retire with no defeats. He spent ten years or so making public appearances. He died in 1969, as a passenger on a private plane that crashed in Iowa. He would have been 46 years old the very next day.
Rocky’s wife Barbara, whom he had been married to for 19 years, was left with their children, Rocco Kevin and Mary Anne. Rocky had many friends who were close, and he was described as a loving father and husband. When he died, he had no written will, and much of his fortune went un-found, since he had been quite secretive about the way he dealt with his money after he retired from boxing.
Marciano was never noted for agility or speed, and he sometimes even moved a bit awkwardly in the ring. Nevertheless, he overcame all of his opponents with determination and drive. He had a tremendously powerful punch that he utilized to his best advantage.