By: Judy Dick
Rocky Marciano was born Rocco Francis Marchegianon on September 1, 1923, in Brockton, Massachusetts where he was raised by his parents who immigrated from Italy. He had five siblings, two brothers, Peter and Louis and three sisters, Alice, Concetta and Elizabeth. At eighteen months, Rocky contracted a bout of pneumonia which almost killed him but with an innate will to fight, he pulled through and went on to attend school. He played baseball, worked out on homemade weight lifting equipment, used a heavily stuffed mailbag hanging from a tree in his back yard as a heavy bag that he consistently punched and executed countless chin-ups until fatigue almost had him passing out.
Ousted from the baseball team at school, due to having joined a church league which was considered as violating a school rule that forbade players from joining other teams, he completed tenth grade and dropped out. To earn a living, he joined the chute men on the delivery trucks for the Brockton Ice and Coal Company and took further work as a ditch digger, railroad layer and cobbler. Conforming to his country's intention, by March 1943, Marciano was drafted into the United States Army where for two years whilst stationed in Swansea, Wales, he helped ferry supplies across the English Channel to Normandy. When the war finally ended in '45, whilst awaiting discharge from the army, Marciano entered into a series of amateur fights. He won the 1946 Amateur Armed Forces Boxing Tournament and began fighting as a professional boxer that led him into 1947 when he knocked Lee Epperson out in three successive rounds.
It was the spring of 1947 when Marciano met Barbara Cousins who was the daughter of a retired Brockton police sergeant. They became engaged and married on New Years Eve 1950. Having borne one daughter whom they named Mary Ann, they adopted a son and aptly named him Rocco Kevin.
With a fetish for baseball that had lingered since high school, he tried out for the Chicago Cubs but after being cut from the team, Rocky returned to his home town where he began training with longtime friend Allie Colombo. Marciano commissioned a pair of heavy training shoes be made specifically for him and was running over seven miles per day whilst wearing them. His fitness regime maintained his stamina and paid off when in 1948 he won the fight against Harry Bilizarian and continued on to defend his title for a further 16 fights by knockout. When the ring announcer failed again to pronounce "Marchegiano”, correctly, “Marciano" stuck and became his pseudonym.
Tenacious and determined, he was driven and in 1952 completed each fight before the fifth round but when he defeated Jersey Joe Walcott with his "Susie Q" in the thirteenth round, he knocked Walcott out and won the world heavyweight championship. He was at his peak and diligently defended his hard earned title six more times before he announced his retirement after he knocked Archie Moore out in the ninth round of his last title fight. It was September 1955 and he had won 49 straight fights with 43 of them being by knock-out.
On the eve of his 46th birthday in August 31, 1969, Rocky Marciano, a passenger in a small private Cessna together with Frankie Farrell, the oldest son of Lew Farrell, a former boxer who had known Marciano since childhood and their pilot Glenn Belz, were tragically killed when the plane crashed after Belz tried to land on a small airfield and hit a tree two miles short of the runway. Five years later, Marciano's wife, Barbara aged 46 died of lung cancer and was buried next to him.