He was Rocky before RockyThe Rock before The Rock. And when heavyweight boxer Rocky Mariano retired April 27, 1956, he was perfect. Never defeated, not even a draw, his career record was 49-0. He also had 43 knockouts in his eight years as a pro. The tough-fisted brawler was the only undefeated heavyweight champ in history. Pulitzer Prize-winning sportswriter Red Smith described the boxer as “the toughest, strongest, most completely dedicated fighter who ever wore gloves. Fear wasn’t in his vocabulary and pain had no meaning.”

Rocky Marciano begins his undefeated career

Born Sept. 1, 1923, Rocco Francis Marchegiano grew up in Depression-era Brockton, Massachusetts. He was the son of a hard-working shoe factory worker. He started boxing in the Army in 1943 and turned pro at the late age of 24. His first openly pro bout July 12, 1948, featured his first KO, in the first round over Harry Bilazarian. Before the year was out, Marciano would end 10 more matches in a knockout, seven of them within the first round.

 The Wall Street Journal

It would take him four years to take the world heavyweight champion title from Jersey Joe Walcott in a 15-round fight Sept. 23, 1952. At that point, his busy schedule slowed dramatically. He held the title more than three years and defended it six times, hanging up his gloves for good after KOing Archie Moore in nine.

Is there life after heavyweight champ?

After his retirement at age 31, Marciano went on to trot the globe. He insisted on cash only in all his dealings and made bags of money as a lender and from speaking engagements that took him all over the world. He was kind of a mascot for certain admiring mob connections and also known for never wanting to pick up the check. He was a day shy of his 46th birthday when the lifestyle caught up to him. On Aug. 31, 1969, he died instantly when the single-engine Cessna carrying him and two business associates lost power and crashed into a pasture in Iowa.