Rocky Marciano, the Brockton Blockbuster

“I’ve scored my share of knockouts along the way, but more often than not my opponents got up after being knocked down and had to be knocked down repeatedly. The same is true of Joe Louis. But Marciano needs only one solid smash and it’s all over.

That’s why I say Rocky Marciano is the hardest-hitting heavyweight champion I have seen.”

-Jack Dempsey


Rocky Marciano (September 1, 1923 – August 31, 1969), born Rocco Francis Marchegiano, was an Italian-American boxer and the heavyweight champion of the world from September 23, 1952, to April 27, 1956. When he retired he became the only heavyweight champion to finish his career undefeated. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time.

In 1969, on the eve of his 46th birthday, Marciano was a passenger in a small private plane, a Cessna 172[15] headed to Des Moines, Iowa. It was at night, and bad weather 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. Rocky, Belz (the young pilot), 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 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.”[16] [17] 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.