Perhaps it is selfishness, but members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only NFL team ever to win every game in a season, get together every year to toast themselves whenever the last remaining undefeated team in the league loses.
Peter Marciano, younger brother of the late, great Rocky Marciano, can empathize with Larry Csonka, Jake Scott and the rest of the '72 Dolphins. Perfection is a tough act to follow, as it should be, and those charged with protecting a legacy, be it their own or a loved one's, are inclined to do so zealously.
|Another ballplayer could someday eclipse .400, a la Ted Williams, but will another champ go unbeaten, like Marciano did? (Getty Images)|
Rocky Marciano, who was a day shy of his 46th birthday when he died in the crash of a small private airplane on Aug. 31, 1969, doesn't have the distinction of putting together the longest winning streak at the outset of a career. But his 49-0 is unique in that he was and is the only heavyweight champion to have retired without so much as a single blemish on his résumé.
In boxing, there is a phrase that is commonly employed whenever two unbeaten fighters swap punches in the ring: "Somebody's oh has got to go." No one ever was able to get the "Brockton Blockbuster's" oh to go.
"Any fighter you might mention -- and I like to believe I'm not being prejudiced -- could not have beaten Rocky," Peter Marciano said from his home in Plymouth, Mass. "I honestly believe that. The only way I can ever imagine him losing is on an accidental head-butt, a bad cut or something like that.
"Quite honestly, I never want to see Rocky's record broken. As a sports fan, as a boxing fan, if someone is good enough to ever do it, I would tip my cap to him. But I think the chances of that happening is almost non-existent, given the current landscape. The best fighters don't fight more than two or three times a year once they achieve pay-per-view status. That makes it difficult for the elite guys to even have 50 fights, much less to win them all.
"And frankly, the heavyweight division is not too good right now. You don't have to be real knowledgeable to see it. When a great heavyweight comes along, it's like a whole new world. When (Mike) Tyson was at his peak, boxing came alive again. It's always going to be that way. There are up cycles and lulls. Right now we're in a tremendous lull. It's sad to see."
Thirty-seven years after his death and nearly 51 years after his final bout, memories of Rocky Marciano are kept alive by cable television entities such as ESPN Classic, which regularly feature retrospectives of boxing's greatest champions, and the occasional appearance of someone who edges within hailing distance of The Rock's 49 and zip.
Peter Marciano appreciates that new generations of fans are created for his brother whenever one of his old bouts is televised. It's like a young movie buff seeing Citizen Kane or Gone With The Wind for the first time.
"Hardly anybody these days knows as much about the past as they ought to," Peter lamented. "If it didn't happen, like, last week, it's almost like it never happened at all.
"But the fact that Rocky's fights are always being replayed has helped younger generations to know him and what he meant to boxing. It just goes on and on and on. It never ends. His legend keeps getting bigger."
It might be said that Rocky Marciano still is KO'ing the opposition from that big ring in the sky. A splendid heavyweight champion, Larry Holmes, got to 48-0 before he dropped a unanimous decision to former light heavyweight titlist Michael Spinks on Sept. 21, 1985 -- ironically, the 30th anniversary of Rocky's final bout, a ninth-round knockout of light heavyweight champion Archie Moore in Yankee Stadium.