6 August 2006 | bkoganbing
A Fighting Machine
Realizing that this is made for TV movie without a whole lot of the production values that a theatrical release would have, the performance of Tony Lo Bianco as Rocky Marciano is a dead-on accurate portrayal of the two real live Rockys that dominated their divisions back in the day.
Paul Newman cut his teeth on playing Rocky Graziano former middleweight champion in the late Forties in a big budget theatrical release. Rocky Marciano undefeated heavyweight champion from 1952 to 1956 gets a made for TV biopic that is not as good as the other one, but it's not due to any of the players.
Rocky Marciano, the Brockton mauler from Brockton, Massachusetts did not want to spend the rest of his life in one of the many shoe factories in the area. Like for so many others boxing was a way out for him. And he took it all the way.
The man was undefeated, his record stands at 49 fights 49 wins and 43 of those by knockout. Only 6 men took him to the distance. A figure to stagger the imagination today.
Rocky had a 68 inch reach, the shortest of any heavyweight champion. That meant you had to keep well clear of him. But he could lay you out with one punch if it connected. Too many inched in closer and regretted it. I guess the temptation was too much.
A great example would be his fight to win the heavyweight championship. Rocky as challenger was favored over champion Jersey Joe Walcott. Walcott was in his late thirties and his younger aggressive challenger had beaten all comers.
But Walcott boxed beautifully and was ahead on points up to the 12th round. Came the 13th round and Rocky Marciano summoned up what it took and when Walcott moved in too close Marciano connected and Walcott lost the title.
Marciano was not about the night life at all. Boxing was his business and he knew he had to keep in shape. He was a fanatic about training, was almost continuously in some kind of training all year round. Very few have that kind of dedication today, few ever have at all.
Other good performances in this film are Belinda Montgomery as Rocky's wife, Simmy Bow as trainer and confidante Charlie Goldman and Vincent Gardenia as Al Weill, Marciano's shrewd manager.
My memories of Rocky Marciano back in the day was a syndicated show he hosted in the early sixties called main event. He ran old fight films, sometimes of his fights, and analyzed them with a guest star. He even managed to keep some kind of cool perspective when Zsa Zsa Gabor guested on one of his shows. That was a bout to remember.
When he died in a plane crash in 1969 the sports world lost a real champion and to use that overused word a role model for the work ethic. This film is a good tribute to a great fighter.