Iowa History Daily: August 31 - The Champ Goes Down

Iowa History Daily: On August 31, 1969, a Cessna 172 crashed near Newton killing former heavyweight boxing champion of the world Rocky Marciano and two others. Over the course of a professional career spanning 1947-1955, Marciano finished with a 49-0 (43 KOs) record and held the belt from 1952-1956.

Born to Italian immigrants in Brockton, Massachusetts, Marciano dropped out of high school in the tenth grade. After working as a delivery truck loader for an ice company, as a ditchdigger, and a shoemaker, Uncle Sam called Marciano into the US Army in March of 1943.

While in the service, Marciano boxed to an 8-4 amateur record and won the 1946 Amateur Armed Forces Boxing Tournament. Fighting in the famed Golden Gloves after his return stateside, the future champ lost a controversial match to Coley Wallace. Switching his focus briefly to baseball, Marciano tried out for a Chicago Cubs farm team and stuck around for three weeks before being cut.

Starting his professional career in 1948, he knocked out his first 16 opponents. After capturing the belt and racking up his 49-0 record, Marciano retired in 1956. Moving into television and other ventures during retirement, Marciano boarded a small Cessna 172 with pilot Glenn Belz, and the son of Chicago and Des Moines organized crime figure Lew Farrell (Louis Thomas Fratto).

A massive storm system challenged Belz’s relative inexperience (231 hours of total flight time) as the plane flew west from Chicago over Iowa. Trying to land at a small airfield outside Newton, Belz crashed the plane into a tree about two miles short of the intended runway. All aboard, including Marciano, died on impact. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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