By Paul Mason
Dial “M” For Marciano – Norman Giller – Norman Giller Books – RRP £9.99
Experienced Boxing writer, scriptwriter, and sports writer in general, Norman Giller’s self-published latest offering focuses on the life and times of Rocky Marciano, quite possibly the greatest heavyweight and pound for pound fighter of all time.
A veteran of over 100 published books, the writer finally gets to focus on a fighter he was destined to write about and devote a book to.
It not only details “The Brockton Blockbuster’s” life and career, but also the author’s experiences of meeting him. The book is in two halves, and is also coupled with a complete history of the World Heavyweight Championship up to the present day, with facts and profiles for each fighter that held a version of the Title . It’s a real labour of love for Giller, who attempted to write a book on Marciano for several years, and was set back in one way or another by his employers, Boxing News in the fifties (his then editor told him to leave it to people who have seen Rocky box!) and by Marciano himself in the sixties, when a flurry of interested parties jostled for the rights to a book about the Massachusetts man.
There’s anecdotes, trivia and quotes a plenty in what is a comprehensive guide to Marciano and the Heavyweight Boxing top table through the years.
Rocky retired at the very pinnacle of the sport, on his terms, and as a reigning World Champion, finishing with a magical 49-0 record. This is now the yardstick on which unbeaten professional records are measured. In addition to this, he was a dominant World Heavyweight Champion, defeating many of the sports greats. A list including Joe Louis, Joe Walcott, Ezzard Charles and Archie Moore to name a few.
Marciano would tragically lose his life aged 45 in August 1969 in a plane crash on the way to a speech for his friend’s son, which was also to be a surprise birthday party for him which he would never get to.
In late July 1969, shortly before his death, Marciano participated in the filming of The “Superfight” – Marciano v Ali. The two boxers were filmed sparring, then the film was edited to match a computer simulation of a hypothetical fight between them, each in their prime. There were several endings, and the two men had a great mutual respect for each other, as described in the book.
Giller’s love for Marciano shines through, and he launches a staunch defence on notions that certain Marciano fights were fixed and he had Mafia connections, both things that were never proven. This in addition to thoughts that Rocky was tight with his money, again unproven and much evidence is given to suggest the opposite as Marciano signed off on various loans to friends, without receiving money back several times.
Interestingly, Marciano’s millions were never found after his death. He stashed his career earnings away in cash in various places, not trusting the bank at any point during his life. He also liked to be paid personal appearance fees in cash, and there is a funny story in the book where legendary Boxing figure Reg Gutteridge scrambles around to look for cash to pay Rocky for an interview.
As Giller describes the story, Rocky says, ‘Tell me again Reg, what’s the fee for this?’ Reg spluttered into his coffee. As you may know, Reg only had one leg and had to go all the way upstairs to the accounts department, while I’m there making small talk with Rocky, as this hero-worshipping fan.
“Next thing, Reg comes hopping back and said to Rocky, ‘The most we can go to is 20 quid.’ Rocky replied, ‘Yeah. That’s fine. But it’s gotta be in cash.’ Off goes Reg again, hobbles all the way back up to accounts again and comes back down with 20 one-pound notes! He also brought a chip for Rocky to sign. Rocky picked up the 20 one-pound notes, folded them up, put them in his wallet and never signed the chip.
“Rocky always got paid in readies and paid in exactly the same way. He used to hide all his cash in various places and countries, and when he died in the plane crash in 1969, it was rumoured that there was around two million dollars hidden in everywhere from shoe boxes to hollow walls.”
If Rocky’s loot has been found, nobody has ever come forward to say as much, and why would you!
It’s a well written and passionate book about a real Boxing legend, and Giller certainly does the great man, and indeed the history of the World Heavyweight Championship justice.