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How are you going to begin my story?" Rocky Marciano asked, leaning against the counter in the kitchen of his Brockton, Mass. home. "I like the way you started that Teddy Williams story. I read it up at camp...about the taxi driver telling Teddy that all the cabbies in Boston thought he was a nice guy and then Teddy saying he didn't pay any attention to the nice things people said about him...only the criticism bothered him.
"I know Teddy Williams," the heavyweight champion said, pleased at the thought of his friendship. "He is a nice guy. He really feels that way—and you know something—so do I.
"That's what's nice about being champion—to be accepted and liked." He hesitated before he spoke again, concerned perhaps that it might sound like bragging, then he continued boyishly. "Tomorrow I'm going to have dinner with the governor," he said. "It makes you feel proud to be accepted with these fine people. They admire you and have a lot of respect for you and they're interested in you.
"The young kids look at you and say, 'Gee, he must be the strongest guy in the world, he could lick anybody; whatta tough guy; look at his muscles; look at his hands.'...They only think of strength and muscles and toughness. They don't know that the nicest part is that people like you."
Marciano paused. There was an expression of intensity in his deep brown eyes. "So many people think the boxing profession is for bums," he said slowly, "but a fighter is a different kind of a guy; he's in there fighting for a living. If he hangs around his old poor neighborhood, they call him a hoodlum, or if he does a foolish thing—as anyone can do—they put in the papers 'Ex-fighter or ex-pugilist picked up for speeding.'
"Fighters are really good guys, the best-hearted." The champion was on the defensive. "There are so many improvements now," he said, "so many protections that you don't see too many punch-drunk fighters anymore or so many guys with cauliflower ears. Look at mine. My ears don't have a scratch."
Marciano turned his head and fingered his well-set ears, then suddenly aware that he was being watched closely, he became self-conscious.
"C'mon," he quickly changed his pace. "I've got some errands to do. We can talk more on the way.
"Barbara," he called into the den, where his wife and the Marcianos' house guests, Mr. and Mrs. Francis Gengler of Mount Carmel, Pa., were watching television. "I'm going over to Mom's. Frank, you come along. You can do the driving.
"I met Frank about a year ago in Carbondale, Pa.," he explained. "They had a terrible fire down there in a church and they asked me to come down to try to raise some funds. I gave them a day in the middle of my training program—I was training for a very important fight with Charles... . Frank flew over to Grossinger's to get me in his own plane and brought me to Carbondale. Then he drove me down the street in the parade. They gave me quite a day. Then Frank flew me to Pittsburgh, the very next day. I thought that was such a nice thing he did for the church that I wanted to be friendly with this guy. He's a brilliant guy. Once he likes you, he'll go all the way, like what he did for that church."