TO DEFINE Rocky Marciano's career, one only needs to know: 49-0. That is it. Forty-nine fights, forty-nine wins. Marciano is the only world champion to complete his career undefeated.
Marciano had a 12-fight amateur career during which he won the New England Golden Gloves title before losing to Coley Wallace in the Eastern Championships. It would be his last defeat inside a boxing ring.
Marciano turned pro with a third-round knockout over Lee Epperson on March 17, 1947 in Massachusetts. A 5-10 and 185 pounds, Marciano was smaller and slower than most heavyweights. But he had power, desire and a solid chin.
Marciano first made an impact on boxing in 1950 when he decisioned Roland LaStarza, also an unbeaten heavyweight prospect. LaStarza is just one of three men to have gone the distance with The Rock. (Don Mogard and Ted Lowry are the other two.) A year later, Rocky knocked out comebacking former heavyweight champion Joe Louis, who was 37.
That bout led to a title fight atainst 38-year-old champion Jersey Joe Walcott. Marciano overcame a first-round knockdown to win the title on a 13th-round knockout in 1952. The rematch lasted one round, as Marciano scored the 11th first-round stoppage of his career.
Rocky defended the title successfully against LaStarza and Don Cockell and also posted a pair of exciting victories over former champion Ezzard Charles. In the final fight of his career, Marciano recovered from an early knockdown and dropped light heavyweight champion Archie Moore three times en route to a ninth-round knockout. Back pain forced Marciano into retiremtn.
One day before his 46th birthday, on August 31, 1969, Marciano died tragically in a plane crash near Newton, Iowa. He was en route to a birthday party.
Born: Sept. 1, 1923
Died: Aug. 31, 1969