Each week, VICE Sports takes a look back at an important event in sports history for Throwback Thursday, or #TBT for all you cool kids. You can read previous installments here.
The news trickled out slowly, the reports initially disclosed by Rocky Marciano’s wife, Barbara, in their hometown of Brockton, Massachusetts. The next day, April 27, 1956, Marciano and his manager, Al Weill, held a press conference at the Hotel Shelton in New York City and confirmed that it was true: Marciano, the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world, was retiring at the age of 31 to “spend more time with his family.”
This was front-page news, as boxing was second only to baseball as America’s most popular sport, and the heavyweight championship was one of the most coveted titles in sports. Marciano was a source of pride for the Italian-American community, generally seen as a clean-cut, decent, hard-working champion. The true story, of course, was far more complicated than the myth. Marciano was dealing with an ailing back; his conflicts with Weill, his iron-fisted manager, were well known. Years after his death, a Sports Illustrated profile would reveal Marciano’s ties to a loan shark, his legendary tight-fistedness, and his penchant for prodigious womanizing.
But the first reaction to Marciano’s retirement was utter disbelief, particularly from Archie Moore, the light-heavyweight who had lost to Marciano seven months earlier and stood to take over his title if Marciano truly was walking away with an unblemished record of 49-0.
“Marciano won’t quit, because he loves the jingle of the American dollar too much,” Moore said. “He’ll soon hoe himself to the North Woods with an axe on his shoulder to get into condition to meet Archie Moore.”
But Marciano would never come back to the ring, despite the temptations. A week after his announcement, 20,000 ….View full article