Rocky Marciano and the Unbeatable Italian-American Spirit


Rocky, a devoted son to immigrant parents, was hellbent on making a better life for his family. And like so many Italian-Americans, he beat the odds and won.

Roland La Starza, Jersey Joe Walcott, Joe Louis, Ezzard Charles, Archie Moore and so many others convinced themselves that Rocky Marciano was just a man with weaknesses who could be beaten.

Each, in their own way, were wrong about the Brockton, Mass. bomber.

Marciano won his first 16 bouts by knockout, all before the fifth round and nine before the first round was over. The Rock went 49-0, with 43 knockouts, and held the heavyweight title from 1952 to 1956.

He was undersized for a heavyweight—standing at 5-feet-11-inches tall and weighing just 188 lbs.—but he was ferocious and relentless in the ring, as he deployed techniques learned from Charley Goldman, an elite trainer who groomed five world champion fighters.

It was Goldman who taught Marciano to start his punching motion from a crouched position to maximize the force of his hits.

Rock’s favorite punch, a hellish right nicknamed “Suzie Q”, dismantled scores of opponents, including Walcott in 1952.

 

“Rocky Marciano was one of the toughest men ever to fight…He had power, coming up with it. Coming up from the floor with power. He’d hit you anywhere. Hit you in the arms. Hit you on the soles of your feet, if he could find them,” boxing historian Bert Sugar once said while discussing the champ.

A Legacy Built on Family 

Reporter Al Bruno writes:

“Marciano felt pressured to make something special of himself and rescue his family. As the eldest, good son, Marciano felt compelled to honorably lift them from their family’s impoverished and limited lifestyle in their modest section of an old and immigrant-filled city of Brockton. He had a burning desire to succeed and make his Italian parents proud: family first, the most important Italian mantra, honorably accepted by the oldest, first-generation son…

Marciano was on a ‘no-lose’ mission to achieving greatness, and he did so by simply outworking and out-conditioning all fighting foes. For starters, he ran seven miles a day through the streets of Brockton, sometimes eating fresh fruit tossed to him from the native Italian grocers, cheering him on in Italian for his next fight that he always won.”

Marciano adored his mother, Pasqualina, who always kept a full plate of food in front of him.

Gone Too Soon

On August 31, 1969 (the day before his 46th birthday), Marciano and two others died tragically in a plane crash amid turbulent weather outside of Des Moines, Iowa.

He was the inspiration for the name, iconography and fighting style of the title character Rocky Balboa from Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky film series.

He is widely regarded as one of the top 10 boxers of all time, and is one of the select few who reached sporting perfection.

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