Rocky Marciano was a slow, stocky kid, with short arms and stubby legs. He wasn’t the kind of kid you’d pick to one day be an elite boxer, yet he went on to become the only undefeated heavyweight champion in boxing history. In the process, Marciano became a cultural icon in 1950s America, rubbing shoulders with presidents, movie stars, and gangsters.
How did someone who got a late start in the sport, become one of boxing’s greatest athletes? And what happens to a man when fame and fortune are suddenly thrust upon him?
My guest today explores those questions in his new book Unbeaten: Rocky Marciano’s Fight for Perfection in a Crooked World. His name is Mike Stanton and today on the show Mike shares how grit, discipline, and fate led Rocky to become the only undefeated heavyweight fighter in boxing history. Mike then shares the challenges Rocky faced with his newfound fame — from balancing work and family, to managing a huge influx of money, to navigating the crooked world of organized crime that controlled the sport of boxing. We end by talking about how Rocky is both an inspiring and tragic figure.
- How Mike became captivated by Rocky Marciano
- The importance of boxing to mid-20th century America
- What was Rocky’s childhood like?
- Rocky’s WWII service
- The inauspicious start of Rocky’s boxing career
- The fight that catapulted Rocky to the national stage
- How his fight with Carmine Vingo changed Rocky’s life and career
- Why Rocky walked away from boxing
- The mob connections to boxing in the mid-20th century
- What does Rocky do after his boxing career ended?
- Rocky’s untimely death, and his family’s troubled finances
- Why boxer’s stories tend to be both so inspiring and so tragic
- What sort of lessons did Mike take from writing about Rocky?
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- Prince of Providence by Mike Stanton
- My interview with Paul Beston about the American heavyweight kings of the 20th century
- James J. Braddock
- Carmine Vingo
- Rocky’s legendary “Suzie Q” punch
- Al Weill (Rocky’s manager)
- The Death of Rocky Marciano
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