Rocky Marciano finished a stellar career with a 49-0 record, the world’s heavyweight championship and an enduring legacy as one of the sport’s greatest
Even by contemporary standards, Rocky Marciano was a smallish heavyweight, standing just 5’10 and weighing 185 pounds. But he had power, desire and a strong chin, too.
Marciano was the first and last champion in the heavyweight ranks to retire undefeated. And he only lost once in a 12-fight amateur career, to Coley Wallace in the Eastern Championships. Armed with amateur success, Marciano turned pro on March 17, 1947, with a third-round knockout of Lee Epperson.
Marciano first made an impact on boxing in 1950, when he decisioned Roland LaStarza, also an unbeaten heavyweight prospect; LaStarza would be one of only three men to go the distance with Marciano in his 49-0 career.
A year after that fight, Marciano knocked out former heavyweight champ Joe Louis, then 37. That bout led to a 1952 title fight against 38-year-old champ Jersey Joe Walcott. Marciano overcame a first-round knockdown to win the title on a 13th-round knockdown. A rematch lasted one round.
He defended his title successfully over contenders, former champs and even the light heavy champ, Archie Moore, in Marciano’s last bout. Recovering from an early knockdown, Marciano dropped “The Mongoose” three times, leading to a ninth-round knockout.
One day before his 46th birthday, on August 31, 1969, Marciano died tragically in a plane crash near Newton, Iowa, while on the way to a birthday party.
Marciano was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1977 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. Marciano receives special recognition in the Hall of Fame’s Gallery of Champions.