by Roger Zotti
Rocky Marciano (1923-69), the only heavyweight champion to retire undefeated, was honored in his hometown of Brockton, MA, September 23. A twenty-two foot statue of Marciano was unveiled at Champions Park on the grounds of Brockton High School. Mario Rendon and Victor Gutierrez of Mexico City, the sculptors who designed the statue, began their work in February and finished it several weeks ago.
Enterprise News.com staff writer Alex Bloom quoted Rocky Marciano, Jr. as saying, “This is the ultimate honor that my father could receive….This is a very incredible statue and it’s just an awesome job [the sculptors] have done. [The sculpture] would be his fiftieth win.” Marciano retired in 1955, with a 49-0 (43 KO) record.
Considered small for a heavyweight at 5’11” and never weighing over 190 for a professional fight, Marciano, known as the Brockton Blockbuster, won the heavyweight title in 1952 with a 13th round knockout over Jersey Joe Walcott. On the road to the championship, he defeated Ted Lowry, Lee Savold, Rex Layne, Harry Matthews, and the great Joe Louis.
In Rocky Marciano: Biography of a First Son, Everett M. Skehan writes about a painful lesson the future heavyweight champion learned in 1946. Home on furlough from the Army, Rocky was matched in an amateur bout, at the Hibernians Hall in Brockton, against three-time Golden Gloves champion Henry Lester. Marciano entered the ring badly out of shape. In the second round Marciano, totally exhausted, fouled Lester and was disqualified. (Some say it was intentional; others claim it was accidental.) Afterward, a distraught but wiser Marciano told his brother Sonny, “I learned something from that fight. And if I ever get into the ring again, you can bet I won’t be out of condition.”
Several months after Marciano knocked out Walcott to win the heavyweight championship, Ed Fitzgerald wrote a piece for “Sport,” pointing out that Rocky, born Rocco Francis Marchegiano, “is a neighborhood kid who married a neighborhood gal and who thinks the old hometown is the greatest place in the world.”
Fitzgerald made three more key points. One, “Rocky throws technique to the winds when he climbs between the ropes. He fights as though his very life were at stake.” Two, “he has never been known to utter a disparaging remark about any man he has fought in the ring.” Three, “[all] Brockton loved him, and always will. He put the city on the map…all the boys from Brockton identified themselves with their champion, and his victories became their victories.”