Rocky Marciano: The Rock of His Times
Publisher: University of Illinois PressFormat: Paperback
In this captivating and complex portrait of an American sports legend, Russell Sullivan confirms Rocky Marciano's place as a symbol and cultural icon of his era. As much as he embodied the wholesome, rags-to-riches patriotism of a true American hero, he also reflected the racial and ethnic tensions festering behind the country's benevolent facade.The early 1950s were an outwardly simple and optimistic time. America was basking in postwar prosperity. Living rooms across the country glowed with the novelty of television. People were likely to trust politicians, hate commies, lionize athletes, and turn to sports for good, clean fun. Boxing was second in popularity only to baseball, and Marciano was the heavyweight champion of the world.Marciano emerged from obscurity in the early 1950s and had snagged the heavyweight crown by 1952. When he quit the ring in 1956 he had never lost a bout — a feat still unmatched by any boxer in heavyweight history. To sportswriters and fans, Marciano's 49-0 record was enough to warrant the prestige and honor they bestowed on him despite widespread discussion of his flaws as a boxer.Sullivan contends that Marciano's popularity was compounded by the uneasy racial attitudes of the era. He was a white man in a sport increasingly dominated by black men during a time when most Americans were hesitant to accept integration. He was also a second-generation Italian American, and although portrayed in the media through ethnic stereotypes, he was revered by immigrants and others who embraced the idea of the melting pot. Even more looked to Marciano as the embodiment of the American Dream and a way of life that was cherished in the early 1950s.Spirited,fast-paced, and rich in detail, Rocky Marciano is the first book to place the boxer in the context of his times. Capturing his athletic accomplishments against the colorful backdrop of the 1950s fight scene, Sullivan examines how Marciano's career reflected the glamour and the scandal of boxing as well as the tenor of his times.
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