Champion of All China

By Clarence George on August 10, 2013
Champion of All China
Castellani boxed while in the Marines, and that's how he became Champion of all China.

I have a weakness for boxers who should have but didn’t grasp the brass ring, guys like Sam Langford and Laszlo Papp…

Oh, life could be a dream (sh-boom)
If only all my precious plans would come true (sh-boom)
—The Chords

And Guam.

No, not Bob Arum’s Zou Shiming, but Pennsylvania’s Rocky Castellani.

I have a weakness for boxers who should have but didn’t grasp the brass ring, guys like Sam Langford and Laszlo Papp. And Castellani certainly fits the bill.

A middleweight who fought from 1944 to 1957, Castellani (66-14-4, 16 KOs) took on some very hard boys indeed, including Lenny “Boom Boom” Mancini (twice), Harold Green (twice), Walter Cartier, Al Priest, Charley Fusari, Tony Janiro, Kid Gavilan, Joey Giardello, Tiger Jones (twice), Johnny Bratton (twice), Billy Graham, Pierre Langlois (twice), Gil Turner, Bobo Olson, Holly Mims, Chico Varona, Gene Fullmer, Johnny Sullivan, Joey Giambra (twice), and the great Sugar Ray Robinson.

Avoided by Rocky Graziano and Jake LaMotta (“Rocky and Jake didn’t want no part of me back then,” said Castellani), Rocky was stopped only four times, by Chuck Kinney, Joe Kiddish, Billy Kilroy, and Ernie Durando.

And don’t be fooled by that niggardly kayo record. For weeks after breaking his hand early in his career, Castellani said that he “could only punch with one hand. That’s how I was transformed into a boxer instead of a puncher.” And an awfully good one.

A top 10 contender from 1951 to 1955, Castellani got his one and only shot at the title when he faced reigning champ Olson at the Cow Palace in Daly City, California, on August 20, 1954. Although Rocky knocked Bobo down in the 11th, he himself was down in the 12th, and wound up losing by unanimous decision.

The high point of Castellani’s career was when he entered the ring at the Cow Palace the following year, on July 22, to take on Robinson. Rocky, who was favored to win, put Sugar Ray down for a nine-count in the sixth, but lost by very controversial split decision. Robinson took the championship from Olson later that year.

Castellani hung up the gloves after losing to Bobby Boyd and Rory Calhoun, becoming a judge for the New Jersey Boxing Commission and opening a restaurant in Atlantic City. Attilio was inducted into the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Boxing Halls of Fame, as well as the Luzerne County and Pennsylvania Sports Halls of Fame. This August 31 will mark the fifth anniversary of his passing.

“In all the years I knew him, I never heard him complain about anything,” said his nephew, Manny Santayana. “He never mentioned any regrets. He never looked back and he didn’t live life in the rearview mirror.”

As for that China championship…Castellani boxed while in the Marines (where he saw combat on Iwo Jima), and that’s how he became Champion of all China.

And Guam.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Sugar Ray Robinson vs Rocky Castellani

Carl "Bobo" Olson W 15 Attilio "Rocky" Castellani, Part 1

Carl "Bobo" Olson W 15 Attilio "Rocky" Castellani, Part 2

Carl "Bobo" Olson W 15 Attilio "Rocky" Castellani, Part 3

Rocky Castellani vs Holly Mims W 12

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  1. Taher 07:32am, 11/30/2017

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  3. Manny Santayana 10:44pm, 02/17/2017

    Statue of Rocky is being commemorated on JUNE 10th - Luzerne Veteran Park
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  4. Clarence George 03:10am, 08/11/2013

    Thank you, Mike C.  I of course agree with you and the silverized Mike.  Castellani was something else, and it’s outrageous how little known he is today.

    The middleweight division was so rich then.  True, the current one isn’t bad (what with Golovkin), but how much more greater it was some 60 years ago.  But that’s true of everything.

  5. Mike Casey 01:17am, 08/11/2013

    Me too, Mike. What a treat to read about Rocky Castellani again - well done, Clarence!

  6. Mike Silver 11:08pm, 08/10/2013

    Castellani vs. Olson and Mims—what a pleasure it is to watch these consummate seasoned pros go at it. Great combinations, good use of the jab, footwork, slipping punches. Oh how I miss the lost skills of these wonderful old pros.

  7. Clarence George 06:47pm, 08/10/2013

    Good points, Irish.

    Check out that cauliflower ear.

  8. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 06:22pm, 08/10/2013

    Clarence George-He reversed all the early KO losses except Kinney who he left in the rear view mirror….I say his temperament matched Loreto Garza’s in George Thomas Clark’s earlier article

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