By Ken Hissner: Born in September 1923, Rocco Marchegiano in Brockton, Massachusetts, would one day be called Rocky Marciano and become NBA champion in September 1952, knocking out champion “Jersey” Joe Walcott, 49-18-1, in the thirteenth round!
At the time of the stoppage, Marciano was down in the rounds by 7-4, 8-4 and 7-5. It was Marciano’s 43rd straight win with 38 knockouts during his undefeated career.
He would make six title defenses first in May 1953 in a rematch, with Walcott stopping him in the first round.
This writer was told by Hank Cisco, a stable mate of Marciano, “I was in Walcott’s locker room after the fight when the doctor said Walcott should never fight again because of a broken bone under the eye. If he did, he’d be knocked out! The crowd had Walcott and put him in the rematch, and you guessed it. At 2:25 of the first round, Marciano knocked Walcott out!
In March 1950, Marciano defeated LaStarza, 37-0, by split decision. The judges scored a draw, each getting the decision and the third a draw. Under New York’s supplemental scoring system, referee Watson (who scored 5-5 in rounds) had Marciano win 9-6, so Marciano won a split decision.
Marciano would have a rematch with LaStarza, 53-3, in his second defense in September 1953 at the Polo Grounds in New York. After ten rounds, the scores were 7-3, 5-5 and 6-4 in favor of Marciano. He would stop LaStarza in the next round by knocking him through the ropes before the fight was stopped.
In June 1954, Marciano, in his third defense, would beat former NBA champion Ezzard “The Cincinnati Cobra” Charles, 85-10-1, by scores of 8-5, 9-5, and 8-6 at the Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York.
In September, they again had a rematch in Marciano’s fourth defense at Yankee Stadium. Marciano was in danger of being arrested when his nose was severely cut. Charles was down for “2” on the second lap and again for “2” on the eighth and stopped at 2:36 of the lap.
Marciano led 5-1 and 6-1 twice after seven rounds. It was Ring Magazine’s “Fight of the Year”!
In Marciano’s fifth defense in May 1955, he stopped Commonwealth (British Empire) champion Don Cockell, 66-11-1, who was on a ten-game winning streak at 0:54 of the ninth round at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco, California.
In Marciano’s sixth and final defense in September 1955 at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York, he ended light heavyweight champion Archie “Old Mongoose” Moore’s twenty-one fight streak, 149-19 -8, at 1:19 of the ninth round.
After eight rounds, Marciano was ahead 5-2, 7-1, and 5-3 in rounds. Moore floored Marciano in the second for a “2” count, but was officially knocked down four times himself – twice in the sixth, once in the eighth and counted out in the ninth.
On April 27, 1956, Marciano announced his retirement at 49-0 with 43 saves.
In August 2017, five-division world champion Floyd Mayweather, Jr. would stop making his debut with Conor McGregor, 0-0, in seven rounds and retire at 50-0 with 27 saves. It took 62 years to break Marciano’s record. Others had gone 49-0 but would lose or have a draw on their record.
Why Mayweather fought an MMA fighter in order to break the record wasn’t a wise move, but it was an official fight, not the exhibition it should have been. He even had an exhibition after that in Japan.
On May 14, 45-year-old Mayweather is scheduled to fight an 8-round exhibition against former sparring partner “Dangerous” Don Moore, 18-0-1 (12), which will take place at a landing pad for helicopter on top of Burj. Al Arab Hotel in Dubai.
Will Mayweather be drawn into the ring in an official fight? Former WBA and IBF light welterweight champion Aaron “Hawk” Pryor was 36-0 and retired after winning a split decision over Gary Hinton of Philadelphia.
It would be twenty-nine months when he returned to the ring to lose to Bobby Joe Young, 29-6-1. This writer once predicted that Mayweather would return to the ring and be defeated. Could this happen?
Marciano attempted a comeback when American world champion Floyd Patterson was knocked out by Sweden’s Ingemar Johansson in June 1959 to bring the title back to America.
He traveled to Italy to train, but found he just didn’t have the same drive he had when he retired almost three years prior. In June 1960, in a rematch, Patterson knocked out Johansson, bringing the title back to America.
On August 31, 1969, a day before what would be his 46th birthday, Marciano boarded a small plane with the pilot and a passenger for a flight from Chicago to a speech in Des Moines, Iowa. The plane crashed in a field near Newton, Iowa, killing all three men on board.