Brockton, Massachusetts pays tribute to Rocco Francis Marchegiano

TV variety show host Ed Sullivan (L) and boxer Rocky Marciano (R) remove their jackets on stage during Sullivan’s variety show, ‘Toast of the Town’ in the 1950s. Photo: Getty Images

Sixty years ago today in Philadelphia, the legendary Rocky Marciano stopped Jersey Joe Walcott in the 13th round to become the heavyweight champion of the world. In doing so he put the small town of Brockton, Massachusetts on the map.


I’m not an art critic, but the statue they unveiled in Brockton, Massachusetts on Sunday, bears little resemblance to the Rocky Marciano I recall. It looks more like that 7’4″ statue of Augustus Caesar now housed in the Vatican’s Art Museum.

On Sunday, Brockton showed their appreciation by celebrating that event and showcasing a huge bronze statue in his likeness which will now stand at the entrance of Rocky Marciano Stadium in the aptly named Champion’s Park.

Baseball legend Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox, the last major league player to bat over .400 in a season, was one of Rocky’s biggest fans. Here we see Marciano swinging a bat while talking to Williams at the ballpark.                   Photo: Getty Images

On Sunday, it seemed as if all of Brockton was on hand to be a part of the unveiling of this huge statue created by Mexican sculptors Mario Rendon and Victor Gutierrez. Like Cooperstown, N. Y. with its Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, Brockton, with its population of nearly 100,000, can now boast they too are a  “City of Champions,” due in part to it’s hometown hero Rocky Marciano, as well as transplanted Newark, N. J. native Marvelous Marvin Hagler, the former middleweight champion of the world.

And to think, this event might have never happened, at least not in Brockton. Nearby Boston, almost unwittingly nabbed the statue for itself. World Boxing Council president Jose Sulaiman had this warped idea that Boston should become the home of the statue due to it’s international appeal and drawing power for visitors from around the globe. This goes to show how convoluted, how twisted things can get in the boxing world. Sulaiman’s idea was fortunately scrapped after a letter writing campaign undertaken by The Enterprise, Brockton’s local newspaper. The love and pride they have for Rocky could not be denied. Their readership agreed and began shouting from the house tops, “This is Rocky’s home! How dare they? This is where any monument to him belongs!”

At the formal dinner to kick off the weekend long celebration, Massachusetts’ Senator Todd Brown said, “I feel like a kid in a candy store, being part of this, the pride felt throughout the community. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

The Statue’s committee chair person Lawrence Siskind spoke of the Rockyesque efforts that it took to ship this colossal statue in six parts from Mexico. “The WBC had the money, but we had the muscle, he proudly boasted.

Peter Marciano, Rocky’s younger brother, and Rocky Marciano Jr. also spoke. “This is for all of you, Brockton. You did this, and now Rocky is home where he belongs,” said Peter Marciano.

Rocky Jr. spoke of the pride he’s always felt as the son of the Champ. “Growing up as Rocky Marciano Jr., I always had people telling me what a great father I had, how special my dad was. I’ve always felt that, but this really shows it – the love and effort shown by so many people to make this happen. To President Sulaiman, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!”

While the many introductions were made of local fighters, family members, and countless others linked to the Marciano camp, one introduction stood out. It was when Victor and William Cream were called upon to stand and be recognized. Who are the Cream bothers? They are the grandsons of Arnold Cream – aka Jersey Joe Walcott, the man from whom Marciano snatched the heavyweight crown 60 years ago at Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium.

Fast forward to Saturday, the 60 year anniversary of that event. After raining over night, there was nothing but blue, skies shining down on the small New England town.

Boxers Micky Ward and John Ruiz were there as well as another former great, Larry Holmes. Holmes once made the foolish remark “Rocky couldn’t carry my jockstrap.” He made the remark after losing in his bid to tie Rocky’s 49-0 mark as heavyweight champion. Holmes was 48-0, when reigning and undisputed light heavyweight champ Michael Spinks upset his apple cart. Spinks brought joy, if not a collective sigh of relief to the Brocktonians who so desperately wanted Holmes to lose and have his record drop to 48-1.

Holmes embraced Rocky’s younger brother Peter in hopes of making amends for that stupid remark. The crowd of 3000, cheered in forgiveness and acceptance of the “Easton, PA Assassin.” Holmes then said, “This is my first time back here in many years. I always feel at home here. I think I might buy a house here tomorrow!”

Never at a loss for words, promoter Don King praised Rocky, for his lasting legacy and for being fair and impartial not only outside the ring, but inside it as well. “Rocky treated everybody as equals…he’d knock you out if you were black as well as white!”

The younger cousin of Rocky, Robert Langway, shared stories from his mother about how “big brother Rocky” would write home while in the Army, or even hours before a big fight concerned for all his younger siblings and parents, “Pretty caring for a so-called tough guy,” said Langway.

After all was said, some 90 minutes of speeches later, those gathered trained their eyes on the tarp covering the monument as members of the Brockton fire department lifted the cover. There was Rocky, all twenty two and a half feet, throwing the same straight right that leveled Walcott on September 23, 1952.

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