Back in Time: Ex-champ Marciano touted virtues of farming in 1958

In a visit to Schenectady 50 years ago today, former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano said he had
Former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano takes a right to the jaw from Bobby Alesio, 7, during an exhibition in Schenectady on March 24, 1958.
Former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano takes a right to the jaw from Bobby Alesio, 7, during an exhibition in Schenectady on March 24, 1958.

Boxers stay away from cauliflower. It reminds them of ear injuries that are part of the vocation.

But potatoes are all right. At least they were for Rocky Marciano.

“I’m a potato farmer now and darn glad of it,” the retired heavyweight legend said during a visit to Schenectady on Monday, March 24, 1958. “I’m not kidding about being a farmer.”

Nobody argued the point, as the champ made appearances at two new businesses — the Ave Maria religious and gift store at 855 Crane St. and Nate Heller’s sporting goods store.

Rocky told sportswriter Art Hoefs of the Schenectady Gazette that he and partner Jim Cerniglia had farms in Florida, Virginia and Prince Edward Island in Canada. Marciano was watching the 800-acre farm in Homestead, Fla.

“The fight game is my great love,” he said, “but since my retirement in 1956, things have sort of fallen into a pattern of life away from the ring. Believe me, it’s definitely not on purpose, because it has been very good to me.” The boxer said he had received offers to teach young fighters but was satisfied with his jobs of husband, father and farmer.

Marciano, the blockbuster from Brockton, Mass., was in town during a big boxing week. Top boxers from upstate New York were just days away from the AAU Golden Gloves championships at the IUE Hall on Erie Boulevard. And the next day, Sugar Ray Robinson and Canastota’s Carmen Basilio were fighting for the middleweight championship in Chicago, a rematch of a fight held the previous September.

“Robinson may be tougher than most think, but Carmen trains well and has the guts to go with condition,” Marciano said. “Don’t take anything away from Robby, but age will be a factor and I’ll stick with Basilio in a close 15 rounds.”

The champ was wrong. Robinson won the fight by decision to regain his title.

He was also wrong about potatoes. The venture eventually failed.

Marciano died Aug. 31, 1969, the day before his 46th birthday, in a plane crash outside Newton, Iowa.

Categories: Life and Arts

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