1956
Rocky Marciano the Only Undisputed Heavyweight Boxing Champion Retires Undefeated.


From the late nineteenth century on, the sport of boxing was regarded as a short cut to riches and social acceptance with one minority after another predominant for given time periods. Thus, Irish Americans, Jewish Americans, Italian Americans, and African Americans succeeded each other in producing great boxers. If for no other reason than that he was the only heavyweight champion to retire undefeated, the name of Rocky Marciano (1923-1969) is bound to come up in any discussion of the greatest heavyweight boxer produced in the United States. Rocky (Rocco) Francis Marchegiano was born in Brockton, Massachusetts to Italian immigrants who were from Abruzzi (father) and Naples (mother). A high school drop out, the 5 foot 8 inch 185 pound second generation Italian American became interested in boxing following his induction into the Army in 1943, turning professional in 1947 when he changed his last name to Marciano.

Following an impressive string of 24 victories in New England, mostly by knockouts, the "Brockton Blockbuster" was featured in matches in New York's Madison Square Garden -the Mecca of boxing. His success in New York led to Marciano's match with former heavyweight champion, Joe Louis, then making a comeback. Marciano knocked Louis out thus opening the way for a title match with reigning heavyweight titleholder Jersey Joe Wolcott. Marciano's knockout of Wolcott in a ferocious boxing duel in September 1952 earned him the heavyweight championship of the world. Marciano continued to box defending his title against such worthy foes as Ezzard Charles and Archie Moore until he retired undefeated in 1956. An unscientific but hard-punching boxer with exceptional durability, Rocky Marciano had 49 professional fights, winning 43 by knockouts. Success in the boxing ring did indeed bring fame and wealth until his death in an airplane accident in 1969.

It has been asserted that Italian Americans have been more successful in pugilism than any other sport outside of baseball. Besides Marciano, some of the more outstanding undisputed world champions and prominent boxers were light-heavyweight Joey Maxim (Giuseppe Antonio Berardinelli), lightweight Tony Canzoneri, middleweights Jake LaMotta, and Vito Antuofermo, featherweights Johnny Dundee (Giuseppe Carrora) and Wille Pep (Guglielmo Papaleo). Italian Americans who boxed under assumed names included Sammy Mandell (Mandello), and Tippy Larkin (Tony Pilliteri). In addition, a number of Italian Americans such as Jack Fugazy, Chris Dundee, Cus D' Amato and Arthur Mercante, excelled in aspects of boxing such as promoters, trainers, and referees.




View Previous Entry     View Next Entry       Back to Timeline