November 14, 1986
Rocky Castellani was born in Luzerne, Pennsylvania in 1926. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corp in 1944 and participated in the invasion of Guam and Iwo Jima. While in active service he, became the USMC Boxing Champion of Guam and China. After receiving an Honorable Discharge, he began his professional boxing career in the United States. During his 13-year career (1944-1957), he compiled a combined record of 65 wins, 13 losses, and 4 draws with 16 KO’s. In 1954 he fought Bobo Olson for the World Middleweight Championship at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.. One of the highlights of his career was fighting Sugar Ray Robinson (1955), knocking down the former champion in the sixth round, only to lose a ten-round split decision. Rocky’s illustrious career also included fights with Joey Giardello, Kid Gavilan, Johnny Bratton, Gene Fullmer and Billy Graham. Rocky currently remains active in the sport as a certified boxing judge for the State of New Jersey. Rocky has been married 37 years, has four children and four grandchildren.
Castellani remains active as a boxing judge
Citizens Voice, Thursday, September 11, 2008
One of the Wyoming Valley?s sports legends, Attilio ?Rocky? Castellani, died August 31 in Atlantic City.
The son of Italian immigrants, Castellani was born in Luzerne and went on to become arguably the greatest boxer to ever come out of the Wyoming Valley. His exploits in the ring earned him the 11th spot in The Citizens? Voice Top 100 Athletes in Wyoming Valley.
?Simply, he was the best (boxer) ever from here,? said local surgeon Dr. George Moses. ?I remember seeing him box at Sandy Beach and at the old South Main Street Armory. Later my father (the late Peter Moses) took me to Cleveland to see him fight against George Fullmer and Rocky went 15 rounds with him.?
Dr. Moses recalled that Castellani was one of the quickest middleweights ever. ?He never got hit,? Moses said. ?but when he did . . .?
Another old friend, Buddy Rush, recalled that Castellani became a local hero in the 1950s.
?Everybody watched,? Rush recalled of the times one of Castellani fights would be televised, usually on the popular Gillete Friday Night Fights.?
?Boxing gave me the opportunity to be somebody,? Castellani was quoted in a 1985 article in The Citizens? Voice.
Castellani traced his boxing roots to his uncle, Bill Costello, an amatuer fighter from Swoyersville, who first laced a pair of gloves on young Attilio at the age of five.
?Everything I have today I owe to boxing,? he said. ?I made good money climbing into the ring. I tried it as a young kid and liked it. And it wasn?t hard.?
His mother, Rose, died when he was 10 and his father, Attilio, did not want him fighting, so he fought under assumed names as a teenager. He joined the Marines at age 16 and took part in the invasion of Iwo Jima. He also continued boxing in the Marines and, upon conclusion of the war, he was chosen to represent his unit in a boxing tournament. Along the way, he earned the title of middleweight champion of the U.S. Navy?s Seventh Fleet and ?Champion of all China and Guam.?
He turned pro shortly after his discharge and he credited a bout in Scranton with turning him from a brawler into a boxer. During that bout with Billy Kilroy, Castellani recalled he broke his hand.
?Some six weeks after that I could only punch with one hand and that?s how I was transformed into a boxer instead of a puncher,? he said.
By 1954 he was the No. 1-ranked middleweight contender and earned a championship bout against Carl ?Bobo? Olsen. He lost on a split decision, knocking Olsen down in the third round at the former Cow Palace in San Francisco.
Perhaps his best known fight came against the great Sugar Ray Robinson in 1955, a fight in which he put Robinson on the canvass for a controversial eight count. Many boxing scholars believed Castellani actually won the fight by knockout only to officially lose by split decision.
Castellani often took jabs at two other middleweight greats of his era ? Jake LaMotta and Rocky Graziano ? hinting the pair ducked fighting him. ?Rocky and Jake didn?t want no part of me back then,? he was quoted in that 1985 article.
He retired with a 65-14-4 record which included 16 knockouts. Many of his fights continue to be featured on ESPN?s Classic Fight of the Century feature. He was inducted into both the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Boxing Halls of Fame and was also enshrined into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.
After retirement he operated ?Rocky?s? bar in Atlantic City for many years served as a judge for the New Jersey Boxing Commission.
He is survived by his wife of 58 years, the former Mary Jugus; sons, Deane of Atlantic City, Michael (Chris) of Linwood, N.J., and David (Terri) of Linwood, N.J.; daughter Lisa (Oliver) Knowlto, Denver; 10 grandchildren.