It was some seven months since Rocky Marciano had signed a pledge of total abstinence from the ring. At that time, last April, there was no challenger in the heavyweight division who could draw an impressive gate. Rocky had enough money anyhow, and he was sick of the training grind. So he retired, began to sleep late mornings and to eat his mother's spaghetti as he never had dared to eat it before.
He didn't even attend the Patterson-Moore fight, the fight that chose his successor. He was through with boxing.
This week, like an angler planning a fishing trip for the most reluctant lunker of them all, Jim Norris picked over his lures and sharpened his hooks.
There was a report that he would offer Marciano $400,000 to fight Patterson (who is by no means reluctant). In his Coral Gables home, Norris half confirmed the report, half denied it.
"I would," he said, "though I don't know what success I would have, be only too happy to guarantee Rocky $400,000 to fight Patterson. But $400,000 is not what would bring Rocky out. The money would be just part of it. If Moore had won over Patterson, I don't think $1 million would have drawn Rocky into another Moore fight. He proved he could beat Moore.
"But when Rocky's friends in Brockton start asking him, 'Hey, Rock, do you think you could beat this Patterson?' that will have more effect on Rocky than a money offer. If I start talking it up seriously with Rocky I won't start out by talking money. If anything will bring Rocky back it's his pride. If he should show any sign of wavering, then I'd talk money. $400,000? I might even go for a little more than that."
He might well go for more than that. A Patterson-Marciano fight would be such an exciting prospect that a promoter would be justified in lifting the old "Battle of the Century" slogan out of the bottom of the trunk and dusting it off. It would almost surely be one of the great fights of modern times. Both men believe in punching until something gives, both are lethal in their punching, both believe in Spartan conditioning. It could go on for round after round. Fifteen might not be enough.
"Everyone who fought Rocky hit him," Norris says. "It's a cinch that this kid [ Patterson] would hit him. It would be a great fight. I'd do practically anything to make it."
What's to prevent his making it? Well, while Norris was checking his lures in Coral Gables, Rocky was in New York, dropping in at his favorite restaurants. He is 40 pounds above fighting weight.
"Rocky is eating very well," reports Gene Leone of Leone's, where eating is the favorite sport of the sporting crowd. If Gene thinks you are eating well, you have won a gold medal.