By Ken Hissner: Born in September of 1923, Rocco Marchegiano in Brockton, Massachusetts, would someday be called Rocky Marciano and become the NBA champion in September of 1952, knocking out champion “Jersey” Joe Walcott, 49-18-1, in the thirteenth round!
At the time of stoppage, Marciano was behind in rounds by 7-4, 8-4, and 7-5. It was Marciano’s 43rd straight win with 38 knockouts in his unbeaten career.
He would make six title defenses first in May of 1953 in a rematch, with Walcott stopping him in the first round.
This writer was told by Hank Cisco, a stablemate of Marciano’s, “I was in the dressing room of Walcott after the fight when the doctor said Walcott should never fight again due to a broken bone under his eye. If he did, he would be knocked out!” The mob had Walcott and put him into the rematch, and you guessed it. In 2:25 of the first round, Marciano knocked Walcott out!
In March of 1950, Marciano defeated LaStarza, 37-0, by a split decision. The judges scored it a draw, with each getting the decision and the third a draw. Under New York’s supplemental scoring system, referee Watson (who scored it 5-5 in rounds) had Marciano winning 9-6, so Marciano won a split decision.
Marciano would have a rematch with LaStarza, 53-3, in his second defense in September of 1953 at the Polo Grounds in New York. After ten rounds, the scores were 7-3, 5-5, and 6-4 in Marciano’s favor. He would stop LaStarza in the next round knocking him through the ropes before the fight was stopped.
In June of 1954, Marciano, in his third defense, would defeat former NBA champion Ezzard “The Cincinnati Cobra” Charles, 85-10-1, by scores of 8-5, 9-5, and 8-6 at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York.
In September, they had a rematch in Marciano’s fourth defense again at Yankee Stadium. Marciano was in danger of being stopped when his nose was severely cut. Charles was down for “2” in the second round and again for “2” in the eighth and stopped at 2:36 of the round.
Marciano was up 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 of 1955, he stopped Commonwealth (British Empire) champion Don Cockell, 66-11-1, who was on a ten-fight win streak at 0:54 of the ninth round at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco, California.
In Marciano’s sixth and final defense in September of 1955 at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York, he stopped the twenty-one fight winning streak of light heavyweight champion Archie “Old Mongoose” Moore, 149-19-8, at 1:19 of the ninth round.
After eight rounds, Marciano was in front 5-2, 7-1, and 5-3 in rounds. Moore floored Marciano in the second for a “2” count but was knocked down officially 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 stoppages.
In August of 2017, Five Division world champion Floyd Mayweather, Jr. would stop debuting Conor McGregor, 0-0, in seven rounds and retire at 50-0 with 27 stoppages. It took 62 years to break Marciano’s record. Others had passed 49-0 but would either lose or have a draw on their record.
Why Mayweather fought an MMA fighter in order to break the record was not a wise decision, but it was an official bout, not the exhibition it should have been. He even had an exhibition after this in Japan.
On May 14th, the 45-year-old Mayweather is scheduled to fight an 8-round exhibition against his former sparring partner “Dangerous” Don Moore, 18-0-1 (12), to take place on a helicopter landing pad atop Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai.
Will Mayweather be lured back into the ring in an official fight? Former WBA & IBF Light Welterweight champion Aaron “Hawk” Pryor was 36-0 and retired after winning a split decision over Philadelphia’s Gary Hinton.
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 Mayweather would return to the ring and be defeated. Could it happen?
Marciano attempted a comeback when American world champion Floyd Patterson was knocked out by Sweden’s Ingemar Johansson in June of 1959 in order to bring the title back to America.
He traveled to Italy to train but realized he just didn’t have the same drive he had when he retired almost three years previously. In June of 1960, in a return match, Patterson knocked out Johansson, bringing the title back to America.
On August 31, 1969, one day shy of what would be his 46th birthday, Marciano boarded a small plane with the pilot and one passenger for a flight from Chicago to a speaking engagement in Des Moines, Iowa. The plane crashed in a field near Newton, Iowa, killing all three men aboard.