Rocky grew up in a large Italian family in Massachusetts. He quit school in the 10th grade and went on to do a lot of heavy labor jobs as he was already a good sized kid. His dad always had a weight set and Rocky loved to work out and even later in life trained under Charles Atlas.
He was drafted by the Army in 1943 but never fought directly in the war but he did try his hand at boxing while serving and won the Armed Forces Boxing Championship in 1946; he was discharged from the Army that same year.
Rocky played baseball and football in school and baseball was a passion of his so he and a few friends decided to try out for a Chicago Cubs farm team in Fayetteville, North Carolina. None of the boys made the team and Rocky was cut after three weeks so he went back to Massachusetts with very few career options. He moved to Chicago to try to be a professional wrestler but didn’t enjoy it so he went back home and thought he’d see if he could make a living off being a professional boxer.
Rocky ended up being a terror. He knocked out his first sixteen opponents after only a couple of rounds. During his career only six boxers lasted the entire fight and it was always very clear who won those. Other boxers made comments that it hurt their hands to hit Rocky that it was like hitting a steel door. They said he had an iron chin and it didn’t matter how hard they hit him that he wouldn’t go down. Fighters said that he would crowd them up close to where they couldn’t get a good punch off but that Rocky could hit extremely hard no matter how far he was from them.
Rocky retired the undefeated heavy weight champion of the world when he was 32 years old. Although he certainly looked like a bruiser he was actually a good businessman and got into a few businesses including an Italian restaurant franchise called Papa Luigi Spaghetti Dens. He had a weekly television show on boxing news and he was a sports broadcaster for major boxing events.
Rocky was asked to attend a lot of different events and he was travelling on a small plane to Des Moines, Iowa the night before his 46th birthday. The pilot hit a tree while approaching the landing strip and all three people on board died including a friend of Rock’s son. The extreme weather conditions and the pilot’s lack of experience were listed as the cause of the crash. Rocky didn’t know it but there was a big surprise birthday party waiting for him for when he arrived.
Rocky was married for 19 years to his wife Barbara and they had two children: Rocco and Mary Ann. Barbara passed away from lung cancer five years after Rocky died; she was 46 at the time of her death.