Graciano Rocchigiani, whom everyone called "Rocky," was harsh, rude, un-matched, rich, poor, high up, down, and in the hour of his perhaps greatest victory he felt cheated out of everything.
Boxing, it is said, is like life. A boxer knows his strengths, but he is constantly confronted with his shortcomings. A boxer can win everything every second, he can lose everything every second, he can be cheated of everything in every second. Boxing, then, is like life, and rarely has it been so as Graciano Rocchigiani did in the twelfth round of his fight in May 1995.
Rocchigiani challenged Henry Maske, the so-called gentleman, who led German boxing out of the junkyard into high society in the 1990s. Mask was polite, elegant, smooth. Rocchigiani, whom everyone called Rocky, was the opposite. One of those guys who lost boxing even then. He was rough, loutish, a man of the street, always unadapted. Mask stood for the beauty and good that evening, Rocky for the ugly and evil. He did not care. For him, the fight was the biggest opportunity of his career. In the first few rounds he had hit Mask a couple of times, again and again with this unsuspecting uppercut, which he rammed up like a corkscrew. Mask was able to lull for a few laps with his fine, but also careful long straight to safety. Until the last round.
Rocky hurled one corkscrew at a time against Mask's chin, digging into it, under his long arms. He hit with side hooks, especially with his left fist. So powerful were his strokes that Mask hung on the ropes at some point, beautiful, good, but powerless. Rocky rummaged on, he had a fire-red head long ago, he was also powerless. But he had that inner urge of a man who knows he has to give everything to avoid the next injustice. He rummaged and rummaged and rummaged, and at some point Mask fell to the ground, not because of a blow, but because of all the blows. The referee did not rate it as a knockdown. Rocky drove on undeterred mask through the ring, this somehow stumbled towards the end of the round. Exhausted Rocchigiani threw up his arms, he had, he was quite sure, just won everything; that's how many observers saw it.
Short time at the top and then suddenly back down
The referees decided: points victory for mask. In the hour of his perhaps greatest victory, Rocky felt cheated out of everything.
"In the past, I often felt like I was on a roller coaster, for a short while at the top, as a brilliant winner, and then suddenly down again, devastated," he once said. And because boxing was really always what life was like for him, he added, "Once I found myself in the ditch and three times in jail."
Rocchigiani, son of a Berlin woman and a Sardinian iron bender, has long led the life of a boxer, as it was then, in the late 1980s and 1990s, in Germany most knew only from the film. He sank. He slept with hookers. He made millions, and he spoiled even more. He also avoided a conflict outside of the ring. In the jail he was sitting for assault, property damage and because of repeated driving without a license. Not only was he a German Rocky by name, he was one who never gave up, who fought against all resistance, until the last gong.
As an amateur, he once participated in German championships, although he had a wound on his arm, which could just be held together with sutures. In 1988 he won the first German prize-boxer of the new era, a world title, in super middleweight against American Vincent Boulware. In fact, he was the first German professional boxer to win a world championship after Max Schmeling and Eckhard Dagge. His struggles have always had this drama that is so lacking in German boxing today. He lost in controversy against the British Chris Eubank, he lost in controversy against mask, he lost in controversy against Dariusz Michalczewski (against Mask and Michaelczewski he lost the rematch, without subsequent discussions).
He was awarded $ 31 million in damages
In March 1998, almost ten years after his first world title, he then won the vacant WBC Light Heavyweight World Championship title. There followed another injustice. The actual titlist, Roy Jones Jr., had never released his belt, the WBC had interpreted that just like that. Which is why the association Rocky denied the title again. Rocchigiani complained. He was awarded $ 31 million in damages, and in 2004 he received $ 4.5 million in settlement bids. At that time he had already denied his last fight in the ring, he lost, against Thomas Ulrich.
In the years following his retirement, his fight continued, it was now a fight against himself. He opened a boxing gym. He had to close it again. He left. He lived by Hartz IV. In recent years he trained in Berlin refugees, since this year he also worked as a boxing expert for the TV channel Sport1.
In mid-September he had taken the time to meet, it was to become acquainted with a story, about Rocky as mature and yet unchanged man. He ordered a Coke without ice cream and lemon, he scolded the English-speaking dishes on the menu, he smoked, he scolded, he laughed, at some point he ordered a steak with fried eggs, "rather through, please". In the end, he said that he would call after his holiday in Italy, "I have," he said, "still much to tell."
On Monday night, just before midnight, Rocchigiani was walking around Sicily near Catania on Sicily when he was hit by a smart. According to the police report, he was immediately dead. Rocchigiani, one of the greatest fighters against injustice in German boxing, was 54 years old.