On April 27, 1956, Rocky Marciano did what no other heavyweight champion had ever done-he announced his retirement from the ring at age 32 for good, never to return, seven months after his last appearance, a ninth round knockout of light heavyweight champion Archie Moore at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. “I still had two or three good fights left in me. I am comfortably fixed, and I am not afraid of the future,” stated Marciano.
Marciano would be offered substantial amounts of money to come out of retirement, but never did. Part of the entire reason Rocky retired in the first place was lost to history. His manager, Al Weill, who supposedly got 50% of Rocky’s fights after his tenth pro fight, took $10,000 out of Rocky’s Don Cockell title defense purse for himself over his share, and Rocky felt Weill was taking too much money which he felt was rightly his. Rocky never wanted to fight again as it meant Al Weill would continue to represent him. Supposedly, Rocky did want to fight Ingemar Johansson and went back into training to do so, in the misguided belief he was free of Weill. But Weill had written into Rocky’s contract if Rocky ever retired and later came back, Weill would still get a percentage. Unable to shake Weill loose, Rocky gave up, but not for the reasons he was tired of the ring as some subscribe to. Rocky always had the talent.
In less than a year in the 1960′s, the entire Marciano corner was wiped out. Trainer Charley Goldman died on November 11, 1968. Best friend and assistant trainer Allie Columbo died on January 6, 1969. Rocky Marciano died in a plane crash on August 31, 1969. His former manager, Al Weill, died broke on October 22, 1969.
One large question still looms on the boxing horizon: what if Rocky Marciano did not retire in 1956? I have pondered this question many a time while watching old training footage of Marciano.
Probably Rocky Marciano Comeback Opponents
Comeback Opponent One: Archie Moore (in a rematch). Moore had written to Rocky about being given a rematch. Moore complained he did not have enough time to go up in weight from light heavyweight to heavyweight naturally. Moore, who was powerful enough to floor Marciano in the second round, felt if given another opportunity, he could beat Marciano. This is doubtful. Prediction: Marciano KO 7
Comeback Opponent Two: Ingemar Johansson. Rocky had actually gone back into training for this supposed ’bout’ against the champion after Johansson had beaten Floyd Patterson, a bout which never transpired. A hard hitting power punch war. Prediction: Marciano KO 13
Comeback Opponent Three: Floyd Patterson. Rocky would not have had to break a sweat here, but he would have to chase Patterson, cut off the ring and run him down. Prediction: Marciano KO 6
Comeback Opponent Four: Coley Wallace. Star of the movie ‘The Joe Louis Story’, Wallace beat Rocky in the amateurs, warranting a rematch if Rocky really wanted one. Prediction: Marciano KO 5
Comeback Opponent Five: Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali). Floyd Patterson defended his title against 1956 Olympic Heavyweight Gold Medalist Pete Rademacher in Rademacher’s first pro bout. While it is not likely 1960 Olympic Heavyweight Gold Medalist Clay would have fought Marciano instead of debuting against Tunney Hunsaker, the bout was always possible. After Ali was champion, rumor mill had it Marciano was offered a substantial sum to come out of retirement and fight Ali after Ali disposed of Liston twice. The so-called computer fight of 1968 was released with two endings: Ali won in Europe, and Marciano won in the Americas. Ali could not run forever from Marciano’s power shots. Marciano was sort of the predecessor to Mike Tyson in terms of punching power in his prime, and Marciano’s power never waned. Prediction: Marciano KO 12
Comeback Opponent Six: Nino Valdes. The Cuban fighter was to be Rocky’s 1956 opponent had he not retired, as Valdez stopped Don Cockell in three rounds at White City Stadium in London in September 1955. Prediction: Marciano KO 4
Comeback Opponent Seven: Bob Baker. Nino Valdes had lost a ten round decision to Baker in Cleveland, Ohio in December 1955. Prediction: Marciano KO 11
Comeback Opponent Eight: Hurricane Tommy Jackson. Baker lost a twelve round decision to Jackson in Pittsburgh in September 1956. Prediction: Marciano KO 13
Comeback Opponent Number Nine: Eddie Machen. Jackson was stopped in the tenth round of a bout against Jackson in November 1957 in California. Prediction: Marciano KO 5
Comeback Opponent Number Ten: Zora Folley. The 31-1-1 Machen, who previously had a 12 round draw with Folley, lost a twelve round decision to Folley in a rematch in California in January 1960. Prediction: Marciano KO 7
Comeback Opponent Number Eleven: George Chuvalo. Though early in the career of Canadian champion Chuvalo, Marciano versus Chuvalo would be a good match for television, though Chuvalo would not win a round. Prediction: Marciano Win 15
Comeback Opponent Twelve: Pete Rademacher. Despite winning the 1956 Olympic Gold Medal, Rademacher lost Patterson, Moore, and Folley, but did beat Chuvalo. Prediction: Marciano TKO 11, bout similar to Marciano versus Roland LaStarza II.
Comeback Opponent Thirteen: Lamar Clark. Strange fighter who went to 42-0 before Ali and Rademacher exposed his padded record. Prediction: Marciano KO 3
Comeback Opponent Fourteen: Donnie Fleeman. A winner over his first 23 opponents going into 1958, including winning a rematch against Alvin Green. Went up from light heavyweight to heavyweight, and did not succeed against Ali or Rademacher. Prediction: Marciano KO 6
Comeback Opponent Fifteen: Willie Besmanoff. A winner of thirteen consecutive bouts in 1956, who later lost to Ali, and got stopped by George Chuvalo three times. Prediction: Marciano TKO 15