“The Brockton Blockbuster”
(Photo courtesy of listverse.com)
“A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.” – Jack Dempsey
The first movie, which was my favorite of the franchise, in many ways is analogous to the experiences of Italian-Americans, especially Southerners (which very well could have been its intent). Like Rocky, we started at the bottom of the food chain, slowly working our way up by our wits and our backs. There were never any “affirmative action” programs for us! During the long, arduous process we faced many adversities, both from within and outside our ranks. Though we never reached the top (prejudice against our people still fairly permeates American society) we have carved out a respectable niche for ourselves in this tossed salad called the United States of America.
Though it earned critical approval and made money at the box office, I was less impressed with the second movie, which I felt cheapened the message of the first. Stallone, like so many others, fell victim to the unfortunate disease known as “sequel fever”. After Rocky II the Rocky saga fell into the buffoonery of such memorable flicks as Rocky III, IV & V. There was some redemption (critically speaking) with the (hopefully) final installment, Rocky Balboa. Unfortunately, by that time the original message had long been lost in the name of box office lucre.
Rocco Francis Marchegiano was born in Brockton, Massachusetts on September 1st, 1923. His father, Pierino Marchegiano, was born in the town of Repa Teatina, Abruzzo, Italy. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1912. Marciano’s mother, Pasqualena Pacciuto, was born in San Bartolomeo in Galdo, Campania, Italy. Marciano was one of six children, three boys and three girls. At birth he weighed 12 lbs.
Outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of New York Scugnizzo
Undaunted, he auditioned in New York with fight manager Al Weill and trainer Charley Goldman. Though they didn’t consider him ready to be a top contender, they liked his heart and his strong punch. He entered the ring on July 12th, 1948 against Harry Bilizarian, whom he knocked out before the fifth round. He would go on to win 15 more fights, all by knockout, and all before the fifth round. Nine of them would be wins before the first round was over!
Early on in his new career he was confronted with a problem many of our people have faced in this country…his name. The ring announcer in Providence, RI could not pronounce his surname, so Al Weill suggested a pseudonym, “Rocky Mack” which Marchegiano immediately rejected. To his everlasting credit, he settled on the more Italian-sounding “Marciano” instead.
Pounding his opponent into submission
Photo courtesy of rockymarciano.com
The heavyweight champ
Photo courtesy of top-10-list.org
His next two fights would be against former heavyweight champ Ezzard Charles, who in the first bout became the only man ever to last 15 rounds against Marciano. Marciano won by decision. In their second bout, Charles wound up kissing the canvas in the eighth round.