The Catholic Defender: Rocky Marciano, A Man Of Great Catholic Faith
Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew to win over Jews; to those under the law I became like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win over those under the law. To those outside the law I became like one outside the law—though I am not outside God’s law but within the law of Christ—to win over those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.
Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. St. Paul
Recently I was looking at the boxing legend Rocky Marciano whose career took place largely before I was born. Rocky at age 32 announced his retirement from Boxing on April 27, 1956. I was born another six months later.
I probably learned more about Rocky Marciano through watching the Sylvester Stallone movie series "Rocky Balboa" which was inspired by the true life story of Rocky Marciano.
Rocky Marciano was born to Italian Immigrants, to Pierino Marchegiano and Pasqualina Picciuto on September 1, 1923. He was one of six siblings (two brothers and three sisters) given the name Rocco Francis Marchegiano from Brockton Massachusetts.
His Mother's strong Catholic Faith teaching Rocky the importance of going to Mass, praying the Rosary, trusting in God through tough times. In High school he was playing regular team sports (baseball and football) but because he also played in a local church league, he was not able to play on the High School team.
Rocky developed a strong sense of hard work through his homemade workout equipment lifting weights and the use of a stuffed mailbag he hung from a tree used as a punching bag.
Because of the troubled times of the Great Depression, Rocky Marciano only finished the 10th grade to find work to help bring food on the table. Rocky found work with the Brockton Ice and Coal Company riding on delivery trucks. Rocky grew strong working as a ditchdigger, railroad layer, and finally as a shoemaker.
Rocky Marciano was drafted into the United States Army March 1943 being stationed in Wales supplying the Allied Troops crossing the English Channel to Normandy beach. At the close of the war, Rocky completed his service March 1946 at Fort Lewis, Washington.
Through all of this, Rocky's Catholic Faith was always important to him. He treasured his family devotions growing up. Writer Russell Sullivan, author "The Rock of His Times", Rocky Marciano is recognized as a God-fearing man who loved Jesus and Mary above all things. He fully embraced the Catholic Faith.
Rocky would attend Mass while training for his fights, he held a special devotion to St. Anthony, the "Hammer of Heretics" as well as St. Jude. He read the bible religiously and the lives of the Saints. He loved reading "The Confessions of St. Augustine".
Priests were often in his company, he went to Confession regularly. He credits his undefeated record to his Mother's faithfulness praying the Rosary before all of his fights. Rocky Marciano held a special devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and the story behind the miraculous image. It is said that Rocky would always thank Our Lord and Our Lady in his life, not just winning fights
Rocky Marciano began his pro-boxing career in 1947 winning his first 37 fights before facing boxing great Joe Louis. That was a great fight for Rocky as Joe Louis was one of his hero's growing up. Madison Square Garden 1951 was the beginning of the success of the next few years going to 1955.
September 1952 Rocky Marciano would win the World Heavy Weight Championship knocking out "Jersey" Joe Walcott in the 13th round. Rocky would defend his title six times before retiring at age 32 with a 49 and 0 record.
43 of those 49 victories were by knock out holding on to the Championship from 1952 through 1955. His title defenses were against Jersey Joe Walcott, Roland La Starza, Ezzard Charles (twice), Don Cockell and Archie Moore.
Rocky Marciano's knockout to win percentage of 87.76 is one of the highest in heavyweight boxing history. As Rocky displayed great sportsmanship among his competitors, he would have people at his training camps to help encourage them despite some having physical handicaps. He was a great inspiration to many people who followed him.
1969 August 31, Rocky Marciano was killed after a terrible plane crash on the eve of his 46th birthday. Rocky was named "Fighter of the Year" by Ring Magazine three times in his short 9 year boxing career. In 1952, Rocky Marciano was awarded the Hickok Belt as the best professional Athlete in all of America in 1952.. Rocky is inducted into the Boxing Hall of fame recognized as the fifth greatest of all time in 2005.
Most importantly, Rocky Marciano held strong in his holy Catholic faith placing him in a Hall of Fame much greater than that of Boxing, but that of Heaven. 1 Corinthians 2:9 teaches that no eye has seen, nor ear has heard nor has it pondered in the heart of man what God has in store for those who love Him. How great it is when people of faith use their talents to reach greatness and at the same time, to be great role models for those who admire them.