Rocky Marciano (born Rocco Francis Marchegiano; September 1, 1923 – August 31, 1969) was an American professional boxer and the World Heavyweight Champion from September 23, 1952, to April 27, 1956. Marciano is the only champion to hold the heavyweight title and go untied and undefeated throughout his career. Marciano defended his title six times.
Marciano was born and raised in the north side of Brockton, Massachusetts, to Pierino Marchegiano and Pasqualina Picciuto. Both of his parents were immigrants from Italy: his father was from Ripa Teatina, Abruzzo, while his mother was from San Bartolomeo in Galdo, Campania. Rocky had three sisters; Alice, Concetta and Elizabeth, and a brother—Peter, whom they called Sonny. When he was about eighteen months old, he got pneumonia, from which he almost died.
In his youth, he played baseball with his brother Sonny and David Rooslet (a neighborhood friend of Marciano's), worked out on homemadeweightlifting equipment (later in his life, Marciano was also a client of Charles Atlas) and used a stuffed mailbag that hung from a tree in his back yard as a heavy bag. He attended Brockton High School, where he played both baseball and football. However, he was cut from the school baseball team because he had joined a church league, violating a school rule forbidding players from joining other teams. He dropped out of school after finishing tenth grade.
Marciano then worked as a chute man on delivery trucks for the Brockton Ice and Coal Company. He also worked as a ditch digger and as a shoemaker. Rocky was also a resident of Hanson, Massachusetts; the house he lived in still stands on Main Street.
In March 1943, Marciano was drafted into the army for a term of two years. Stationed in Swansea, Wales, he helped ferry supplies across theEnglish Channel to Normandy. After the war ended, he completed his service in March 1946 at Fort Lewis, Washington
Marciano considered a comeback in 1959 when Ingemar Johansson won the Heavyweight Championship from Floyd Patterson on June 26, 1959. After only a month of training in nearly four years, Marciano decided against it and never seriously considered a comeback again.
After his retirement, Marciano entered the world of television, first appearing in the Combat! episode "Masquerade" and then hosting a weekly boxing show on TV in 1961. For a brief period, he worked as a troubleshooting referee in wrestling (Marciano was a good wrestler in high school). He continued as a referee and boxing commentator in boxing matches for many years. He was also active in business as a partner and vice president of Papa Luigi Spaghetti Dens, a San Francisco based franchise company formed by Joe Kearns and James Braly. He built a custom home at 641 NW 24 street in Wilton Manors, Florida, a suburb of Fort Lauderdale. The house still stands today.
In late July 1969, shortly before his death, Marciano participated in the filming of the fantasy The Superfight: Marciano vs. Ali. The two boxers were filmed sparring, then the film was edited to match a computer simulation of a hypothetical fight between them, each in their prime. It aired on January 20, 1970, with one version having Marciano winning and the second version having Ali winning. When asked if he could have defeated Ali in a real fight, Marciano replied: "I'd be conceited if I said I could, but I'd be lying if I said I couldn't." When asked about his opinion of the result, Ali jokingly dismissed the results as racist, saying "That computer must've been made in Mississippi."
In 1969, on the eve of his 46th birthday, Marciano was a passenger in a small private plane, a Cessna 172 headed to Des Moines, Iowa. It was at night and bad weather had set in. The pilot, Glenn Belz, had only 231 total hours of flying time, only 35 of them at night, and was not certified to fly in instrument meteorological conditions. Belz tried to set the plane down at a small airfield outside Newton, Iowa, but hit a tree two miles short of the runway. Marciano, Belz and 22-year-old Frankie Farrell (son of Italian mobster Louis Fratto) were killed on impact. The National Transportation Safety Board report said, "The pilot attempted an operation exceeding his experience and ability level, continued visual flight rules under adverse weather conditions and experienced spatial disorientation in the last moments of the flight."  Marciano was on his way to give a speech to support a friend's son and there was a surprise birthday celebration waiting for him. He had hoped to return early morning for his 46th birthday celebration with his wife. He was coming from a dinner in Chicago at STP CEO Andy Granatelli's home.
He is interred in a crypt at Forest Lawn Memorial Cemetery in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His wife, who died five years after him at the age of 46, is entombed next to him. His father died in March 1972 and his mother in early January 1986.