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Chuck vs. Rocky

In his 12 seasons in pro hockey, Chuck Scherza earned a reputation as a tough customer, a checker who could dig the puck out of the corners, and never one to back down from a fight.

His career penalty totals rank third among all the players in Reds? history. And he suffered injuries that included a punctured lung in an NHL game and a 16-stitch wound in the top of his head during one of his 10 years in Providence.

But there was one time when Scherza was quick to turn down a fight, when he figured that discretion would be the better part of valor. And no one could blame him.

His opponent would have been Rocky Marciano, the ?Brockton Blockbuster? who eventually would reign atop boxing?s heavyweight division for more than four years. Eventually, Rocky would retire as the boxing?s only undefeated heavyweight champ.

?It was Mike Thomas (a Providence Journal-Bulletin sports writer) who suggested the boxing match in one of his columns,? Chuck recalled. ?Marciano fought a lot of his bouts at the Auditorium and I had seen him fight quite a few times ... And I remember once autographing a (hockey) stick for Rocky.

?My reaction to the suggestion was a very loud and very quick and emphatic ?No. Are you kidding me?? and I didn?t even have to think twice about it. It wouldn?t have been too smart to step into the ring against Rocky.

?If Marciano had a ?home? arena, it certainly was the R.I. Auditorium. The Brockton, Mass., native fought more than half of his pro fights at the 1111 North Main Street showplace ? 28 of his 49 bouts, and 24 of his 43 knockouts. In some ways it was the most important venue in his career.

The Auditorium also was where the champ?s name was shortened from ?Marchegiano? to ?Marciano.? Early on, the ring announcer had difficulty pronouncing the fighter?s birth name, so one of Rocky?s handlers suggested the shorter, easier one.

It certainly wasn?t fear of fighting that kept Scherza from stepping into the ring with Marciano. He always was quick to drop his gloves and pummel an opponent on the ice, a rough style of play that often kept the other team in line and him in the penalty box. And it certainly wasn?t fear of being injured. Chuck played with abandon, and often paid for it with broken bones and stitches. The two most damaging injuries ? the punctured lung during the 1944-45 season when he was with the NHL?s New York Rangers, and the multi-stitch-wound to his head while he was with the Reds ? were just the starters. 

Scherza and Marciano would have been well-matched physically. And Scherza always showed great stamina on the ice. 

?I never smoked cigarettes,? he recalls, ?but I was familiar with smoking since the Auditorium always was full of damned cigarette smoke by the second period.?

Chuck can describe many of his fights during games, and especially remembers a classic battle against Pat Egan when both were in the NHL. Egan was a defenseman with Detroit and Scherza was with the Bruins. Ironically, the two later would be teammates with the Reds for four seasons in the early 1950s.

?Hockey fights were one thing and I cannot remember losing one ever on the ice. But I know if I ever tangled with Rocky in the boxing ring I certainly would not be here today to talk about it,? Chuck concluded with a playful smile.

THE TALE OF THE TAPE

CHUCK SCHERZA

  •  539 penalty minutes, third behind Jimmy Bartlett (705) and Bert Wilson (567)
  • Led AHL in penalty minutes in 1945-46 with 81
  •  5?10?, 190 pounds 

ROCKY MARCIANO

  • 49 victories, 43 by knockouts
  • 5?11?, 188 pounds

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