In 1951, a year before Rocky Marciano would become the world heavyweight champion with a 13th-round right cross that put Jersey Joe Walcott to sleep, Marciano was earning a little extra money in between bouts by fighting exhibition matches in Maine.
Ahead of his first exhibition, Marciano's opponent dropped out. Then a back-up bowed out. So Marciano called his younger brother Lou, who packed up his car with his boxing gear and drove from Florida to Maine.
"He told me, 'Go after me, throw everything, let's give them a show,'" Lou Marciano recalled.
Lou took his older brother's advice, and connected with a straight overhand right that caught Rocky in the jaw, sending his mouthpiece flying. The crowd roared. Instinct took over, and the elder Marciano shook off the blow and began stalking his brother in the ring.
"He had this look in his eye, and he followed me into the corner and I said, 'Rock, come on, I'm your brother, Rock!'" Lou Marciano said with a laugh.
More than 40 years after his brother's death in a small plane crash, Lou Marciano's memory of his brother's intensity hasn't waned. Marciano, who has lived in Port Chester for the better part of two decades, wants his brother's story told.
Fight movies have enjoyed a revival since the days of Rocky and Apollo Creed, with A-list stars like Russell Crowe and Mark Wahlberg hitting the gym and burying themselves in biographies to bring boxers like Micky Ward and Jim Braddock to the big screen.
But Rocky Marciano, the only undefeated heavyweight champion and arguably boxing's most-acclaimed fighter, has been the focus of only two films–both made for TV, and both, in the words of his brother, "terrible." Lou Marciano wants a proper movie on his brother, a Hollywood movie.
"If anyone deserves it, it's my brother," the younger Marciano said.
To that end, Lou Marciano has been shopping around the rough outline of a screenplay. While nothing would make him happier than to see his brother's story told in a real Hollywood movie, he remains wary of producers after both made-for-TV movies on his brother aired despite the protests of the Marciano family.
Lou Marciano has met with agents, producers and New York movie kingpin Chaz Palminteri of "A Bronx Tale" fame. He admits the 800-page epic he's penned on his brother must be significantly slimmed-down before it becomes a viable screenplay.
But he's convinced the would-be film, which traces Rocky Marciano's life from his childhood in Boston to his triumphant retirement as the heavyweight division's most dominant fighter, would draw big crowds to the box office under the guiding hand of a pro screenwriter and a capable director.
In the world of combat sports, there's something endlessly beguiling to fans and sportswriters alike when it comes to undefeated fighters. Floyd Mayweather retired at a perfect 39-0 as a welterweight, then returned in 2009 to eke out two decision victories against high-caliber fighters. But boxing fans have grown tired of the endless delays in a potential superbout against the world's current pound-for-pound champion, Manny Pacquiao.
Similarly, fans and sportswriters attributed near-mythic qualities to the Russian mixed martial arts heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko, who stomped through the division and went undefeated for a decade in a sport where no fighter boasts an untarnished record. The humble Russian finally lost in 2010 after an unheard-of 31-fight win streak, putting him in the company of his mortal colleagues.
But Marciano is different. His dominance came at a time when the path to the championship was clear and boxers were expected to fight their most dangerous contemporaries. While promotion shenanigans and a mish-mash of leagues and federations allow some modern boxers to duck dangerous competition, Marciano fought at a time when fans and fighters alike relished the superfights, the cards that pitted champion against champion and filled entire arenas with screaming fans.
"It's so difficult to go your whole career, because everyone has their off night," Lou Marciano said. "Even great athletes who play basketball, baseball, football. They can have an off night and the team still wins. But in boxing, it's one man against another."
With his memory frozen in time since his death, Rocky Marciano is also of a different age, a time "when World War II was finally behind us and it was an age of simplicity," his brother said. Boxing was a spectacle, the days of pay-per-views and multi-million dollar contracts were long off, and promoters took to stereotyping to market their fighters.
The promoters felt the fighter's family name, Marchegiano, was "too Italian" and too difficult for American fans to pronounce, so they changed it. And the press played along, dubbing Marciano "The Great White Hope" while peppering stories and columns about the boxer with references to meatballs and the mafia.
To later generations of fighters, it's a reminder that boxing was once equal parts sideshow and athletic contest, and not the reverently-treated combat sport it is today.
"He should go down as one of the greatest, he should go down as a legend," said David Telesco, Port Chester native and former pro boxer. "He went through the rough times and the good times. He was a world champion and fought many great, talented prospects, and he proved himself."
As Lou Marciano looks to have his brother's story told, Telesco said he thinks such a movie wouldn't just benefit theatre-goers – it would provide a lesson for every new fighter who steps into the ring.
"Rocky Marciano, along with so many other great fighters in his time, they paved the path for fighters like myself and fighters who come after me," he said. "It's important to show the struggle and the success of their era so that fighters of today will benefit from that."
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