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The tragic end of a boxing icon

Rocky Marciano, still unsurpassed in many ways, would have been 100 years old today. His life ended tragically one day before his 46th birthday.

His body measurements did not point to a great career in the heavyweight division.

Rocky Marciano measured just 1.79 m and weighed only 85 kg. But the qualities that were in the son of Italian immigrants made him grow far beyond what seemed to be his destiny.

Marciano, who would have been 100 years old today, went down in history as one of the best heavyweight boxers in history, who also has a unique achievement ahead of other greats like Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson:

On 27 April 1956, Marciano ended his career after 49 wins in 49 professional fights – his unblemished record was only surpassed by superstar Floyd Mayweather in 2017.

Marciano could afford to retire from boxing for good at the age of just 32 at the time – but his life ended in tragic circumstances 13 years later.

Rocky Marciano holds records to this day

Born on 1 September 1923 in Brockton/Massachusetts, Marciano, whose real name was Rocco Francis Marchegiano, didn’t take up boxing until he was 20, but then put all his ambition into his career.

In addition to his hard punches with both fists, Marciano had enormous taker qualities and a good eye. This was also felt by the great Joe Louis, who in 1951 – when he had passed his zenith – was one of many who were knocked out by Marciano.

Various records set by Marciano still stand today: he is the only heavyweight world champion to have gone undefeated and the one with the highest knockout ratio in title fights (85.7).

Legendary boxer Rocky Marciano in 1950
Legendary boxer Rocky Marciano in 1950

Also unique across weight classes is Marciano’s achievement of knocking out all his opponents in title fights: the dethroned Jersey Joe Walcott (twice), Roland La Starza, Ezzard Charles (after a first-round points win), Don Cockell and his last opponent Archie Moore.

Many experts see Marciano far ahead in a comparison of the best boxers of all time, even Wladimir Klitschko ranked him among the five best ever after his own career ended in 2017 – alongside Louis, Ali, Thomas “Hitman” Hearns and brother Vitali.

Cause of death: a plane crash just before his 46th birthday

Unlike many other boxers, Marciano had no need to retire. He invested his money well, was quite wealthy and devoted himself entirely to family life, hosting a TV show and other projects.

He abandoned a single comeback attempt, tempted by Ingemar Johansson’s title win over Floyd Patterson, in 1959.

Ten years after that, Marciano died in similar circumstances to 2020 basketball star Kobe Bryant: He was on a private plane en route to Des Moines, Iowa, when the relatively inexperienced pilot lost his bearings in bad weather and caused a crash.

Marciano died on 31 August 1969, one day before his 46th birthday, a surprise party was planned for him at the landing site. Marciano is buried in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his wife Barbara, who died of lung cancer five years after him.

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