All remembers Sylvester Stallone’s famous Hollywood franchise ROCKY – but its seldom known that it borrowed its name from a less famous but very real man, Rocky Marciano. ‘The Brockton Blockbuster’ was the only undefeated heavyweight champion in boxing history. While Marciano’s 49-0 record and knockout power make him a familiar figure in the annals of sport, his story, which weaves through the mafia’s golden era in America, is more complex and largely forgotten – compelling, heroic and ultimately tragic.
This is the portrayal of an incorruptible immigrant son who chased the American dream in the middle of the 20th Century, then lost it in a changing world in the 1960s. Marciano’s story unfolds in the back alleys of New England and the musty gyms and Broadway lights of New York in the years after World War II, when boxing reflected the tremendous societal changes sweeping America. Marciano moved through a romantic era of guys and dolls, hustlers and gamblers, crusty trainers and sleazy managers, glamorous celebrities and notorious mobsters.
Marciano’s quest for perfection came at a price. The All-American boy achieved his dream only to retire from the ring while still in his prime. For the last decade of his life, he wandered America, disillusioned, untrusting, hiding his money, cheating on his wife, consorting with the mobsters he had loathed for corrupting his sport, until his death in a plane crash in 1969, the night before his forty-sixth birthday.