Rocky Graziano

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Rocky Graziano
Rocky Graziano.jpg
Statistics
Real name Thomas Rocco Barbella
Nickname(s) The Rock / Rocky / Rocky Bob / Thomas Rocky Graziano / Roco / Painter Rock
Rated at Middleweight & Welterweight
Height 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)
Reach 68 12 in (174 cm)
Nationality American
Born (1919-01-01)January 1, 1919
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died May 22, 1990(1990-05-22) (aged 71)
New York City
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Wins 67
Wins by KO 52
Losses 10
Draws 6
No contests 0

Thomas Rocco Barbella (January 1, 1919[1] — May 22, 1990), better known as Rocky Graziano, was an American boxer. Graziano was considered one of the greatest knockout artists in boxing history, often displaying the capacity to take his opponent out with a single punch. He was ranked 23rd on The Ring magazine list of the greatest punchers of all time. His life story was the basis of the 1956 Oscar-winning drama film, Somebody Up There Likes Me, based on his 1955 autobiography of the same title.

Early life[edit]

Rocky Graziano was the son of "Fighting Nick Bob", a boxer with a brief fighting record. Born in Brooklyn, he later moved to Little Italy in New York's Lower East Side. Graziano grew up as a street fighter and learned to look after himself before he could read or write. He spent years in reform school, jail, and Catholic protectories.[2] His father, who got occasional work as a longshoreman, kept boxing gloves around the house and encouraged Graziano and his brothers to fight one another. When Graziano was as young as three years of age, his father would make him and his brother Joe (three year's Rocky's senior) fight almost every night in boxing gloves. At age 18 he won the Metropolitan A.A.U. welterweight championship. Despite the fame and money that professional fighting seemed to offer, he didn't want to become a serious prize fighter. He didn't like the discipline of training any more than he liked the discipline of school or the Army. [3]

Amateur career[edit]

Graziano heard from a couple of his friends about a tournament going on with a gold medal for the winner. Rocky entered under the name of Joe Giuliani. He fought four matches and ended up winning the New York Metropolitan Amateur Athletic Union Boxing competition (1939). He sold the gold medal for $15 and decided that boxing was a good way to make cash.[4]

A couple of weeks into amateur fighting, he was picked up for stealing from a school. He went to Coxsackie Correctional Facility, where he spent three weeks, with boyhood friend Jake LaMotta, and then he went on to the New York City Reformatory where he spent five months. After Rocky got out of the Reformatory, he headed back to the gym to make money, where he met Eddie Cocco, who started his professional career. He entered the ring under the name Robert Barber. A couple of weeks later Rocky was charged with a probation violation and sent back to reform school, where he was charged for starting a minor[clarification needed] riot and sent to Rikers Island.[citation needed]

When he got out of jail he enlisted in the military but went AWOL after punching a captain. He escaped from Fort Dix in New Jersey and started his real boxing career under the name of "Rocky Graziano". He won his first couple of bouts. After gaining popularity under the name of Graziano, he was found by the military. After Graziano's fourth bout, he was called into manager's office to speak with a couple of military personnel. Expecting to be prosecuted and sent back to the military or jail, Graziano fled. He returned to the military a week later. He turned himself in, but he was pardoned and given the opportunity to fight under the army's aegis.[4]

Professional career[edit]

As he grew older, Rocky was scouted and seeing no other way to raise his standard of living, he signed a few boxing contracts. But the rigors of training disgusted him and he and his early managers went their separate ways. He wound up with Irving Cohen, who had the sense to give him a long leash. Cohen changed Rocky's name from Barbella to Graziano (his grandfather's surname) and lined up a fight. Refusing to train much, Graziano nevertheless showed his killer instinct and won by a knockout. Other fights were lined up with Cohen trying, in his subtle way, to overmatch Rocky, get him defeated, and thereby show Rocky the value of getting into condition. He even demanded a match against Sugar Ray Robinson.[5]

In March 1945, at Madison Square Garden, Graziano scored a major upset over Billy Arnold, whose style was similar to that of Sugar Ray Robinson; he was a slick boxer with lightning-fast combinations and a knockout punch. The Ring Magazine and various newspapers across the United States touted Arnold as the next Joe Louis or Sugar Ray Robinson. Arnold was a heavy favorite to defeat Graziano, and then to go on to fight for the world title, but Graziano absorbed a beating in the early going, before going on to batter and knock out Arnold in the third round of the scheduled eight-round bout.[6] Following his defeat to Graziano, Billy Arnold was never the same. Graziano became World Boxing Champion, fighting Tony Zale in one of boxing's most storied rivalries. He later fought Sugar Ray Robinson, losing by early knockout in three rounds.[citation needed]

He is most famous for his three title bouts with Tony Zale, all for the middleweight title. In their first match (September 27, 1946), after flooring Graziano in the first round, Zale took a savage beating from Graziano, and was on the verge of losing the fight by TKO. However, he rallied and knocked out Graziano in the sixth round to retain his title. The rematch, a year later in Chicago (July 16, 1947), was a mirror image of their first fight. The referee almost stopped the second fight in the third round because of a severe cut over Graziano's left eye, which would have awarded the victory to Zale, but Graziano's cutman, Morris ("Whitey") Bimstein, was able to stop the bleeding to let the fight continue. Graziano was battered around the ring, suffered a closed eye and appeared ready to lose by a knockout, then rallied and knocked Zale out in the sixth round, becoming middleweight champion of the world.[4] Their last fight was held in New Jersey the following year (June 10, 1948). Zale regained his crown, winning the match by a knockout in the third round. The knockout blows consisted of a perfect combination of a right to Graziano's body, then a left hook to Graziano's jaw. Graziano was knocked unconscious. His last attempt at the middleweight title came in April 1952, when Sugar Ray Robinson knocked him out in three rounds. He retired after losing his very next fight, a 10-round decision to Chuck Davey.[4]

Career trouble[edit]

In 1946, Graziano was suspended by the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) for failure to report an alleged bribe attempt. In 1948, Abe Green, then-National Boxing Association's President, announced that they were indefinitely suspending Graziano in all parts of the world under NBA supervision, following similar action by the California State Athletic Commission. This was due to Graziano's "running out" on a scheduled December 1 bout with Fred Apostoli. The suspension covered all of the American States, Great Britain, the European Boxing Federation, Cuba, Mexico, and Canada. Boxing promoter Ralph Tribuani got Graziano a license to box in Delaware, which led to the reinstatement of Graziano by both the NBA and NYSAC and Rocky's return to prosperity.[citation needed]

Post-boxing career[edit]

After his retirement from boxing, he co-hosted a short-lived series, The Henny and Rocky Show with famous comedian Henny Youngman. He was a semi-regular on The Martha Raye Show, as Raye's boyfriend.[7] He appeared as a regular on the United Artists TV series Miami Undercover for its entire run, and appeared in several series and shows, including The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, Car 54, Where Are You?, and Naked City. He portrayed Packy, an ex-boxer, in the 1967 film Tony Rome.[citation needed]

In the 1960s, Graziano opened a pizza restaurant, Rocky Graziano's Pizza Ring, on Second Avenue in Kips Bay, Manhattan, creating a modest franchise for the restaurant in the New York City area.[citation needed] He became the celebrity spokesman for Lee Myles Transmissions in the New York City area, appearing on dozens of television commercials from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Graziano married Norma Unger, of German-Jewish descent, on August 10, 1943. They remained together until his death from cardiopulmonary failure on May 22, 1990 in New York City at age 71. The couple had two children. Graziano's funeral Mass was held at St. Patrick's Cathedral.[8]

Other[edit]

Accolades[edit]

Professional boxing record[edit]

67 Wins (52 knockouts), 10 Losses (3 knockouts), 6 draws[9]
Res. Record Opponent Type Round
Time
Date Location Notes
Loss 67–10–6 United States Chuck Davey UD 10 1952–09–17 United States Chicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois
Loss 67–9–6 United States Sugar Ray Robinson KO 3 (15)
1:53
1952–04–16 United States Chicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois For World Middleweight title.
Win 67–8–6 Canada Roy Wouters TKO 1 (10)
2:45
1952–03–27 United States Minneapolis Auditorium, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Win 66–8–6 United States Eddie O'Neill TKO 4 (10)
2:21
1952–02–18 United States Jefferson County Armory, Louisville, Kentucky
Win 65–8–6 United States Tony Janiro TKO 10
2:45
1951–09–19 United States Olympia Stadium, Detroit, Michigan
Win 64–8–6 United States Chuck Hunter DQ 2 (10) 1951–08–06 United States Municipal Auditorium, Kansas City, Missouri
Win 63–8–6 United States Cecil Hudson TKO 3 (10) 1951–07–10 United States Municipal Auditorium, Kansas City, Missouri
Win 62–8–6 United States Freddie Lott KO 5 (10)
2:17
1951–06–18 United States Baltimore Coliseum, Baltimore, Maryland
Win 61–8–6 Canada Johnny Greco KO 3 (10)
1:56
1951–05–21 Canada Montreal Forum, Montreal, Quebec
Win 60–8–6 United States Reuben Jones KO 3 (10)
1:18
1951–03–19 United States Miami Stadium, Miami, Florida
Win 59–8–6 United States Honeychile Johnson KO 4 (10)
0:48
1950–11–27 United States Philadelphia Convention Hall,
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Win 58–8–6 United States Tony Janiro UD 10 1950–10–27 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 57–8–6 United States Pete Mead KO 3 (10)
2:25
1950–10–16 United States Milwaukee Arena, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Win 56–8–6 United States Gene Burton KO 7 (10)
2:10
1950–10–04 United States Chicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois
Win 55–8–6 United States Henry Brimm KO 4 (10)
2:14
1950–05–16 United States Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, New York
Win 54–8–6 United States Vinnie Cidone TKO 3 (10) 1950–05–09 United States Milwaukee Arena, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Win 53–8–6 United States Danny Williams KO 3 (10)
1:03
1950–04–24 United States New Haven Arena, New Haven, Connecticut
Draw 52–8–6 United States Tony Janiro SD 10 1950–03–31 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 52–8–5 United States Joe Curcio KO 1 (10)
2:21
1950–03–06 United States Miami Stadium, Miami, Florida
Win 51–8–5 United States Sonny Horne MD 10 1949–12–06 United States Cleveland Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
Win 50–8–5 United States Charley Fusari TKO 10 1949–09–14 United States Polo Grounds, New York City, New York
Win 49–8–5 United States Joe Agosta KO 2 (10)
2:19
1949–07–18 United States Century Stadium, West Springfield, Massachusetts
Win 48–8–5 United States Bobby Claus KO 2 (10)
0:46
1949–06–21 United States Wilmington Park, Wilmington, Delaware
Loss 47–8–5 United States Tony Zale KO 3 (15) 1948–06–10 United States Ruppert Stadium, Newark, New Jersey Lost NBA
World Middleweight title
Win 47–7–5 United States Sonny Horne UD 10 1948–04–05 United States Uline Arena, Washington, D.C.
Win 46–7–5 United States Tony Zale TKO 6 (15) 1947–07–16 United States Chicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois Won NBA
World Middleweight title
The Ring Fight of the Year
Win 45–7–5 United States Jerry Fiorello TKO 5 (10) 1947–06–16 United States Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio
Win 44–7–5 United States Eddie Finazzo TKO 1 (10) 1947–06–10
2:14
United States Fairgrounds Arena, Memphis, Tennessee
Loss 43–7–5 United States Tony Zale KO 6 (15) 1946–09–27 United States Yankee Stadium, New York City, New York For NYSAC and NBA
World Middleweight titles
The Ring Fight of the Year
Win 43–6–5 United States Marty Servo TKO 2 (10)
1:52
1946–03–29 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 42–6–5 United States Sonny Horne UD 10 1946–01–18 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 41–6–5 United States Harold Green KO 3 (10)
1:49
1945–09–28 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 40–6–5 United States Freddie Cochrane KO 10
2:37
1945–08–24 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 39–6–5 United States Freddie Cochrane KO 10
0:16
1945–06–29 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York The Ring Fight of the Year
Win 38–6–5 United States Al Davis TKO 4 (10) 1945–05–25 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 37–6–5 United States Solomon Stewart TKO 4 (10) 1945–04–17 United States Uline Arena, Washington, D.C.
Win 36–6–5 United States Billy Arnold TKO 3 (8) 1945–03–09 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Loss 35–6–5 United States Harold Green MD 10 1944–12–22 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Loss 35–5–5 United States Harold Green UD 10 1944–11–03 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 35–4–5 United States Bernie Miller TKO 2 (8)
0:44
1944–10–24 United States Broadway Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Draw 34–4–5 United States Danny Kapilow PTS 10 1944–10–06 United States St. Nicholas Arena, New York City, New York
Draw 34–4–4 United States Frankie Terry PTS 8 1944–09–15 United States St. Nicholas Arena, New York City, New York
Win 34–4–3 United States Jerry Fiorello SD 8 1944–08–14 United States Queensboro Arena, Queens, New York
Win 33–4–3 United States Tony Reno PTS 8 1944–07–21 United States Fort Hamilton Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 32–4–3 United States Frankie Terry TKO 6 (8)
2:47
1944–06–27 United States Dexter Park Arena, Queens, New York
Win 31–4–3 United States Larney Moore KO 2 (8) 1944–06–07 United States MacArthur Stadium, Brooklyn, New York
Win 30–4–3 United States Tommy Mollis TKO 7 (10) 1944–05–29 United States Griffith Stadium, Washington, D.C.
Win 29–4–3 United States Freddie Graham KO 3 (8) 1944–05–09 United States Turner's Arena, Washington, D.C.
Win 28–4–3 United States Bobby Brown KO 5 (10) 1944–04–10 United States Turner's Arena, Washington, D.C.
Win 27–4–3 United States Ray Rovelli PTS 8 1944–03–14 United States Broadway Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 26–4–3 United States Harold Gary PTS 6 1944–03–08 United States Scott Hall, Elizabeth, New Jersey
Win 25–4–3 United States Leon Anthony KO 1 (8)
1:20
1944–03–04 United States Ridgewood Grove, Brooklyn, New York
Win 24–4–3 Puerto Rico Nick Calder KO 4 (8) 1944–02–24 United States Masonic Hall, Highland Park, New Jersey
Loss 23–4–3 United States Steve Riggio PTS 6 1944–02–09 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 23–3–3 United States Phil Enzenga TKO 5 (8) 1944–01–18 United States Westchester County Center, White Plains, New York
Win 22–3–3 United States Jerry Pittro TKO 1 (6)
2:31
1944–01–07 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 21–3–3 United States Harold Gary PTS 8 1944–01–04 United States Grotto Auditorium, Jersey City, New Jersey
Win 20–3–3 Romania Milo Theodorescu TKO 1 (8)
2:52
1943–12–27 United States Laurel Garden, Newark, New Jersey
Win 19–3–3 United States Freddie Graham PTS 6 1943–12–06 United States St. Nicholas Arena, New York City, New York
Win 18–3–3 United States Freddie Graham PTS 8 1943–11–30 United States Paterson, New Jersey
Loss 17–3–3 United States Steve Riggio PTS 6 1943–11–12 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Draw 17–2–3 United States Charley McPherson PTS 6 1943–10–27 United States Scott Hall, Elizabeth, New Jersey
Win 17–2–2 United States Jimmy Williams TKO 2 (6) 1943–10–13 United States Scott Hall, Elizabeth, New Jersey
Win 16–2–2 United States Freddie Graham KO 1 (8)
1:02
1943–10–05 United States Broadway Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 15–2–2 United States George Wilson PTS 8 1943–09–21 United States Broadway Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Loss 14–2–2 United States Joe Agosta PTS 6 1943–09–10 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 14–1–2 United States Tony Grey PTS 6 1943–08–24 United States Queensboro Arena, Queens, New York
Win 13–1–2 United States Ted Apostoli PTS 4 1943–08–20 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 12–1–2 United States Charley McPherson PTS 6 1943–08–12 United States Fort Hamilton Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 11–1–2 United States Randy Drew KO 1 (6)
2:16
1943–07–27 United States Queensboro Arena, Queens, New York
Win 10–1–2 United States George Stevens KO 1 (6) 1943–07–22 United States Fort Hamilton Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 9–1–2 United States Johnny Atteley TKO 2 (6) 1943–07–08 United States Fort Hamilton Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 8–1–2 United States Frankie Falco KO 5 (6)
1:37
1943–06–24 United States Fort Hamilton Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 7–1–2 United States Joe Curcio TKO 4 (6)
0:39
1943–06–16 United States Twin City Bowl, Elizabeth, New Jersey
Win 6–1–2 Peru Gilberto Vasquez KO 1 (6)
1:45
1943–06–11 United States Fort Hamilton Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Draw 5–1–2 United States Lou Miller PTS 6 1942–05–25 United States St. Nicholas Arena, New York City, New York
Win 5–1–1 United States Godfrey Howell KO 4 1942–05–12 United States Broadway Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 4–1–1 United States Eddie Lee KO 4 1942–05–04 United States St. Nicholas Arena, New York City, New York
Loss 3–1–1 United States Charles Ferguson PTS 6 1942–04–28 United States Broadway Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Draw 3–0–1 United States Godfrey Howell PTS 4 1942–04–20 United States St. Nicholas Arena, New York City, New York
Win 3–0 United States Kenny Blackmar KO 1 (4) 1942–04–14 United States Broadway Arena, Brooklyn, New York
Win 2–0 United States Mike Mastandrea KO 3 (4) 1942–04–06 United States St. Nicholas Arena, New York City, New York
Win 1–0 United States Curtis Hightower TKO 2 (4) 1942–03–31 United States Broadway Arena, Brooklyn, New York

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Alternative birth dates have been cited; however his gravestone states January 1, 1919 and his widow confirmed that this as the correct date
  2. ^ Graziano, Rocky; Barber, Rowland (1955). Somebody Up There Likes Me. New York: Simon And Schuster. 
  3. ^ Lardner, Rex. "The Improbable Graziano". Sport Magazine Article. SPORT. Retrieved December 5, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d Berger, Phil (May 23, 1990). "Rocky Graziano, Ex-Ring Champion, Dead at 71". New York Times. 
  5. ^ Lardner, Rex. "The Improbable Graziano". SPORT Magazine Article. SPORT. Retrieved December 5, 2011. [dead link]
  6. ^ Google info re Graziano
  7. ^ Adams, Val (November 29, 1953). "Rocky Graziano: TV Actor and Ex-Fighter". The New York Times. p. X11. Retrieved February 8, 2011. 
  8. ^ SPORTS OF THE TIMES; Leave Your Worry on The Doorstep, New York Times, May 26, 1990.
  9. ^ "Rocky Graziano Professional boxing record". BoxRec.com. 

External links[edit]

Achievements
Preceded by
Tony Zale
World Middleweight Champion
July 16, 1947– June 10, 1948
Succeeded by
Tony Zale