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Rocky Marciano’s Career Began With A St. Patrick’s Day Bout In Holyoke, Massachusetts

Holyoke, Massachusetts, between 1936 and 1937. Photo by Lewis Hine, courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Holyoke, Massachusetts, between 1936 and 1937. Photo by Lewis Hine, courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Seventy-two years ago this St. Patrick’s Day, Rocky Marciano — one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time — came to fight in Holyoke, Massachusetts. It was a turning point in his life.

A friend set Marciano up with the Holyoke fight. It was 1947. He had just gotten out of the Army and was digging ditches for the gas company in Brockton, Massachusetts, where he grew up.

Marciano didn’t think he had many options in life, said Mike Stanton, who wrote about the Holyoke fight in his book, “Unbeaten: Rocky Marciano’s Fight for Perfection In a Crooked World.”

“This was his first professional fight,” Stanton said.

Not knowing what was ahead, Marciano wanted to preserve his amateur status.

“So he decided that the greatest future Italian heavyweight fighter in history would fight under an Irish name on St. Patrick’s Day in a heavily Irish Holyoke,” Stanton said.

Visit NEPR for the full story.