Support our mission

FRANKFURT — "My theory," explained Rocky Marciano, putting his philosophy of boxing in the proverbial nutshell, "was to knock a man out; to hurt a man; get 'im outa there."

Marciano, the man who retired unbeaten in 1956 as the world's heavyweight champion, stood in his hotel room Friday engaging in what is understandably his favorite pastime: talking boxing.

The 44-year-old ex-champ, a shade heftier than he was in his heydays, has begun a swing through GI clubs in Germany which will last until April 26. His show features several films of some of his greatest fights, with Rocky himself right there to explain what's going on.

The "KO theory," Marciano admitted, was partly a matter of pride. But only partly. "I never trusted decisions," he said. "I saw an awful lot of home-town decisions while I was working my way up, and I never wanted to be the victim of one of them."

And he wasn't. Marciano retired in 1956 after 49 fights and 49 victories — all but six of them by knockouts.

The toughest of the 49?

"Walcott," he answered so quickly that he must have anticipated the question. Rocky has probably been asked about his first fight with Jersey Joe Walcott a couple zillion times.

It was in September of 1952, and Marciano was the challenger. After 12 rounds, his face was a mess and he was badly behind in points.

"I was getting a licking from a master," said Marciano. "I just made up my mind that I was going to have to throw the best punch I ever threw." He threw it in the 13th. "It traveled about this far;" explained Rocky, putting his hands about two feet apart and then recreating the punch in slow motion while his interviewer instinctively took a step or three backwards.

"You oughta see the movie," said Rocky.

So what does Rocky Marciano thinks of the boxing situation today. Is it a dying sport?

"Well, let's say it's hurting. Whether it can come back, I just don't know. You can't say."

Marciano said that it would take just one man to get everybody as excited as they were when he was champion or when Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson had their three fights.

"The excitement can be projected by one man," said Marciano. And he figures Jerry Quarry, the recent conqueror of mammoth Buster Mathis, could be the one man.

"Quarry looked very good in that fight;'' said Marciano. "He could be the one to help boxing."

The present confused state of heavyweight boxing, with the World Boxing Association recognizing Jimmy Ellis as champion and everybody else divided between Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) and Joe Frazier, is what Marciano considers the sport's most immediate problem.

"Everybody would like to see Frazier and Ellis fight to clear up the picture," he said. "Frazier would win."

And what about Ali?

"Nobody seems to know his status," said Marciano, referring to Clay's Black Muslim association, draft-dodging conviction and legal battle to stay out of jail. "As a fighter, Clay's the best around. Definitely."

Marciano spends most of his time nowadays running a construction firm with his famous name on it in Florida. Speaking tours like this one for which he brought along his wife, Barbara, and 16-year-old daughter, Mary Anne, "are just a vacation for us."


stars and stripes videos

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up