Rocky Marciano's upper body strength

December 1, 2006 | Featured in the December 2006 Issue

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By Josh Staph

Rocky Marciano won all 49 of his professional fights, knocking out 43 of his unlucky foes. However, his greatest victory didn’t happen in the ring, under the lights.

During Rocky’s first amateur fight, against Henry Lester, his biggest weakness was exposed. Much shorter and stockier than most heavyweights, Rocky didn’t have the stamina to keep his short, powerful arms raised in defense when he fatigued. With no other way to protect himself, Rocky kneed Lester, and as a result was disqualified.

That night, Rocky made a promise to his trainers, family and himself: Even if he gets outboxed in the ring, never again would he be outconditioned. To build endurance in his bulky upper body, Rocky’s team made a special heavy bag that weighed 300 pounds—200 pounds heavier than a standard bag. To move the heavier bag around with his punches, Rocky had to work his upper body much harder. When he wasn’t pounding the oversized bag, Rocky visited his local pool and threw hundreds of punches while submerged to his shoulders in water. The added resistance was torture on Rocky’s shoulders, back and arms.

Soon, the Rock from Brockton had turned his biggest weakness into his biggest weapon. While most heavyweights were throwing 40 to 45 punches a round, during his ascension to Heavyweight Champion of the World, Rocky had the endurance to average 85 punishing blows each time the bell rang, and it wasn’t unusual to see him unleash over 100 punches. Fellow boxer Archie Moore once said: “He could hurt you, sure, but it was the quantity of his punches. He just had more stamina than anyone else in those days. He was like a bull with gloves.”

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