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THE ROCK
William Nack
August 23, 1993
Former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano was a tough-fisted brawler in the ring and a tightfisted mystery out of it
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August 23, 1993

The Rock

Former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano was a tough-fisted brawler in the ring and a tightfisted mystery out of it

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"I'm sorry," Sherlock said.

Rocco Francis Marchegiano would have turned 70 years old on Sept. 1, and by the time he died, almost a quarter of a century ago, the life he had created for himself outside the ring was quite as large and unlikely as the figure he had once cut inside it. Of course, Lord only knows what he might be doing today had he somehow survived his endless peregrinations; how many sacks of cash he might have wadded up and squirreled away in his far-flung caches; how big his lending business might have become; or how long he could have avoided arousing the serious curiosity of IRS agents, not only over his out-of-pocket lending business, for which he kept no books or paperwork, but also over his travels around the banquet circuit, where he insisted on payment in cash only. It was a strange, fantastic world he had built for himself, one shaped in considerable part by the obsessive, endless quest for $100 bills, for cash to feed his lending business, for cash to buy his way into multitudes of deals, for cash to toss onto Pasqualena Marchegiano's dining room table.

"He'd come home sometimes with two bags of money, and he'd give his mother one," Marciano's longtime accountant and traveling companion, Frank Saccone, recalls. "Five or six thousand dollars in each bag. His mother would count it, all over the goddam table." She would then stack it neatly in piles.

"What do you want me to do with it, Rocky?"

"Keep it, Ma, for spending money."

His idiosyncrasies were often so irrational as to drive Saccone to teary despair. One evening in the mid-1960s, Saccone recalls, Marciano had just delivered a speech at a large function in Montreal, when one of the organizers approached him and Saccone in the lobby of the hotel where they were staying. Thanking Marciano profusely, he handed him an envelope containing a check for $5,000. The Rock shook his head. "Can you cash the check for me?" he asked.

That would not be possible; the banks were closed. "I'll guarantee it," the man said.

"That's not it," Rocky said. "I don't take checks. I'd rather have the cash."

It was an awkward moment. "Look," Rocky said, "do you have $2,500 in cash? I'll take that. You keep the check."

Saccone took Rocky aside. "Why don't you let me take the check, and I'll cash it," Saccone said. "Then I'll give you the cash."

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