Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1956

Rocky Marciano retires as world heavyweight champion

On April 27, 1956, world heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano retires from boxing at age 31, saying he wants to spend more time with his family. Marciano ended his career as the only heavyweight champion with a perfect record–49 wins in 49 professional bouts, with 43 knockouts.

Rocco Francis Marchegiano was born into a working-class family in Brockton, Massachusetts, on September 1, 1923. After being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943, he reportedly began boxing as a way to get out of kitchen duty and other less-than-desirable jobs. Marciano finished his military service in 1946 and continued to box as an amateur. He tried out for the Chicago Cubs, but his dream of becoming a pro baseball player ended when he was soon cut from the team. He returned to boxing and fought his first professional match on March 17, 1947, defeating Lee Epperson in a third-round knockout. Marciano went on to win his next 15 matches by knockout. He became known as a tough fighter and powerful puncher, but he was criticized for his awkward style, which some though lacked finesse.

On October 26, 1951, Marciano signaled to the boxing world that he was a contender when he faced former heavyweight champ Joe Louis and knocked him out in the eighth round. Marciano captured the heavyweight crown in Philadelphia on September 23, 1952, when he scored a knockout against defending champ Jersey Joe Walcott in the 13th round. Marciano faced Walcott again in Chicago on May 15, 1953, and defeated him in a first-round knockout. Marciano, nicknamed the “Brockton Blockbuster,” would successfully defend his title five more times, with his last professional bout, against Archie Moore in New York on September 21, 1955, ending in a ninth-round KO.

On April 27, 1956, Marciano announced his retirement from boxing and said he had no plans to return to the ring for a comeback. Marciano died in a small-plane crash in Iowa on August 31, 1969.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

German forces enter Athens

On this day in 1941, the German army enters the Greek capital, signaling the end of Greek resistance. All mainland Greece and all the Greek Aegean islands except Crete are under German occupation by May 11. In fending off the Axis invaders, the Greeks suffer the loss of 15,700 ...read more

President Ulysses S. Grant is born

Ulysses S. Grant, Civil War leader and 18th president of the United States, is born on this day in 1822. The son of a tanner, Grant showed little enthusiasm for joining his father’s business, so the elder Grant enrolled his son at West Point in 1839. Though Grant later admitted ...read more

Cunanan begins his killing spree

Andrew Cunanan kills Jeffrey Trail by beating him to death with a claw hammer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Trail’s murder set Cunanan off on a nationwide killing spree that ended in July when he killed himself on a houseboat in Miami Beach. Cunanan spent most of his adult life as ...read more

Afghan president is overthrown and murdered

Afghanistan President Sardar Mohammed Daoud is overthrown and murdered in a coup led by procommunist rebels. The brutal action marked the beginning of political upheaval in Afghanistan that resulted in intervention by Soviet troops less than two years later. Daoud had ruled ...read more

Union soldiers die in steamship explosion

The steamboat Sultana explodes on the Mississippi River near Memphis, killing 1,700 passengers including many discharged Union soldiers. The Sultana was launched from Cincinnati in 1863. The boat was 260 feet long and had an authorized capacity of 376 passengers and crew. It was ...read more