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On This Day with the Iowa Almanac

The story of how a legend passed in Iowa

Rocky Marciano was undefeated in 49 professional fights and was the world heavyweight boxing champion from 1952 to 1956, when the sport's popularity was at its highest. He remains the only person to hold the heavyweight title without a tie or defeat during his entire career. He had a relentless style and great stamina, and his knockout percentage of 87.75 is one of the highest in history. He retired from the ring at age 32 and was active in television and business.

On August 31, 1969, Rocky Marciano was a passenger in a small private plane travelling from Chicago to Des Moines. But the weather turned bad, and the pilot tried to set the plane down on a small airfield outside of Newton. The plane hit a tree two miles short of the runway; Rocky Marciano, and pilot Glenn Belz and passenger Frankie Farrell, both of Des Moines, were killed. It is still not known if the crash was caused by engine failure, pilot error, or both. Marciano had planned to spend the night in Des Moines before returning home to celebrate his 46th birthday the next day. But a plane crash ended his life one day before that birthday, near Newton, on this date in 1969.

Just a few years ago, on the south end of newton, a tribute was put in place to honor not just Rocky Marciano, but the others who were killed in the plane crash.

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