If Floyd Mayweather beats Conor McGregor on August 26, he will surpass Rocky Marciano’s perfect 49-0 record. Marciano, held the World Heavyweight Title from 1952 to 1956, is widely regarded as one of the greatest heavyweight boxers in history.
Marciano was born in Bockton, Massachusetts in September 1923 and died in a plane crash on August 31, 1969. He was only 45 years old and fought his last fight in 1955. Marciano was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
In 2015, Jeremy Renner signed on to star as Marciano in a movie about his career.
Here’s what you need to know about Marciano and what the Marciano family thinks about Mayweather.
1. Marciano’s Brother Calls Mayweather’s Fight With McGregor an ‘Exhibition’ & Doesn’t Think it Should Count Towards the Record
Peter Marciano, Marciano’s brother, told CBS Boston on August 25 that he thinks the McGregor-Maywether fight is an “exhibition.” After all, Mayweather hasn’t fought in two years and McGregor has never fought in a professional boxing match before.
“Well obviously, I’m probably prejudiced, sure I am,” Peter told CBS Boston. “But if you looked at it in the right way, it’s the first time this man is stepping in the ring to be a boxer. It’s an exhibition. It’s a crossover.”
Peter said he is rooting for McGregor, but thinks Mayweather will win. “He’s gonna break my brother’s record. He’s gonna break it but he’s not a heavyweight,” Peter noted.
Indeed, the 40-year-old Mayweather has only fought in the super featherweight, lightweight, light welterweight, welterweight and light middleweight classes.
2. Only 6 of Marciano’s 49 Wins Were By Decision
What makes Marciano’s record even more impressive is that 43 were by knockout and just six were by decision. That’s an 87.75 knockout-to-win percentage. That’s the sixth-best in history. Five of the by-decision wins were by unanimous decision.
As SB Nation notes, the only win on Marciano’s record that came in a split decision was his bout against Roland La Starza on March 24, 1950. Amazingly, La Starza was also undefeated going into the match, with a 32-0 record.
Marciano retired in April 1956 at age 32. His last fight was against Archie Moore on September 21, 1955 at Yankee Stadium. He won with a knockout and kept his World Heavyweight title.
3. In 1969, Marciano & Muhammad Ali Were Filmed Sparring for a Computer Simulated Match
Since Marciano had given up on making a comeback in the late 1950s, he never faced Muhammad Ali in a real boxing match. However, as The Guardian noted in November 2012, Marciano ‘fought’ Ali in a Miami gym. They filmed a sparring match, which was then edited to match the results from a computer simulation of how the two would have matched up in their primes. The idea came from Miami advertising executive Murry Woroner, who first played with the idea as radio plays.
Titled The Super Fight: Marciano vs. Ali, the two began filming after they were guaranteed a cut of the profits. Marciano had to lose over 50 pounds and wear a toupee so he would look like he did during the prime of his career. On January 20, 1970, the fight was shown in movie theaters. Americans and Canadians saw the version were Marciano knocks out Ali, while European audiences saw Ali knock out Marciano.
According to the Guardian, at one point during filming, Ali knocked off Marciano’s toupee. Marciano called for the cameraman to stop filming so he could fix it. His friends told him that Ali just did it by accident, but Marciano was very serious about it.
“Rock was really upright about the toupee,” Ali’s trainer, Angelo Dundee, told the Guardian. “He had this guy in New York that made his toupees. I remember when he got the first one. Mingia! It was terrible. It looked like a dead cat. I said, ‘Rocky, watch out. The thing might get up and run away.”
Since Marciano died just three weeks after filming, his reaction to the fight is unknown. But The Guardian notes that Ali was ashamed by it after seeing it in Philadelphia. Ali once wrote:
“I saw myself on the ropes being destroyed by Marciano, in one of the ‘artistic’ endings few actors could equal. But some people thought it was real. Some sat stone-still, some booed and yelled, some cried … I felt like I had disappointed millions all over the world. It left me ashamed of what I had been doing. I had gone over the country promoting the series as fair and accurate, especially the Marciano v Ali show.”
4. Marciano Died on the Eve of His 46th Birthday in a Plane Crash
“The Brockton Blockbuster” died on the eve of his 46th Birthday in a plane cash on August 31, 1969.
Accordign to Check-Six.com, Marciano left Midway Airport in Chicago on a 1967 green and white Cessna 172 headed to Des Moines, where he was going to give a speech to help a friend’s son and go to a surprise birthday party. The other passenger of the plane was Frankie Farrell, a 28-year-old whose father was a friend of Marciano’s.
The pilot, Glenn Belz, was inexperienced and ignored storm warnings. Since he wasn’t certified to fly at night, he tried to land at a small airfield near Newton, Iowa. Belz hit a tree two miles short of the runway and all three people in the plane were killed on impact.
Marciano’s wife Barbara Cousins died five days after her husband from lung cancer. She was 46 years old.
5. The World Boxing Council Gifted Brockton a 2-Ton Marciano Statue, Which Stands Outside Brockton High School
Marciano is still a beloved figure in Brockton, and one of the reasons why the city is known as “The City of Champions.” In September 2012, the city and the World Boxing Council finally unveiled a statue in Champion Park on the Brockton High School grounds. The statue stands 20 feet and weights two tons.
The statue spent a long time in the works, as residents and officials tried to figure out where it was best to put it. In 2008, some residents told the Brockton Enterprise that it should have been put in City Hall Plaza.
The WBC at first wanted to put the statue in Boston, but the Bring Rocky Home campaign successfully convinced the organization otherwise.
There is also a Marciano statue in Ripa Teatina, Italy, since that’s where Marciano’s father was born.
Marciano was born Rocco Francis Marchegiano and served in World War II.