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   BIOGRAPHY - Page 2

Five fights later, on September 23, 1952, he got that chance. Jersey Joe Walcott was the defending champion and Marciano the challenger when the pair met in Philadelphia. Marciano pulled out a victory which would be remembered as typical of his tough-guy, never-say-die style: way behind in points and struggling offensively all night, he caught Walcott with a short, overhand right on the jaw in the 13th round which knocked him unconscious, giving Marciano the championship belt.

Marciano only defended the title six times, but some of those fights are considered classics by boxing fans. He knocked out Walcott in the first round of their rematch in 1953, then knocked out Roland La Starza later that year. He won a decision against Ezzard Charles in 1954, and almost lost his title in their rematch later that year. In the sixth round Charles cut Marciano's nose so badly his cornerman couldn't stop the bleeding. With the ring doctor watching the cut closely and considering stopping the fight, Marciano erupted against Charles in the eighth round and knocked him out.

Marciano defended his title against Don Cockell in 1955, knocking him out despite organized crime enticements for Marciano to throw the fight. His last fight was September 21, 1955, his third Yankee Stadium defense. He knocked out Archie Moore in the ninth round. The unofficial attendance through closed-circuit television across the great cities of North America was over 400,000.

On April 27, 1956, Marciano retired from boxing at the age of 31. "I thought it was a mistake when Joe Louis tried a comeback," the New York Times quoted him as saying. "No man can say what he will do in the future, but barring poverty, the ring has seen the last of me. I am comfortably fixed, and I am not afraid of the future." He said he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Marciano spent the years following his retirement making money from personal appearances. On August 31, 1969, the day before his 46th birthday, he died in a private-plane crash near Des Moines, Iowa. He was survived by his wife of 19 years, Barbara, and their two children, Rocco Kevin and Mary Anne.

Although he may not rank in the top five boxers of all time in terms of skill, speed or power, Rocky Marciano was tough enough to compensate, and his fans recognized his grit. A sports writer commented that if all the heavyweight champions of all time were locked together in a room, Marciano would be the one to walk out.

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