IT is being reported Graciano ‘Rocky’ Rocchigiani, the former world champion at super-middleweight and light-heavyweight, has tragically passed away after being involved in a car accident.
According to German newspaper Bild, the 54-year-old German, who has two children with an Italian girlfriend, was hit by an overtaking car when walking the streets as a pedestrian.
Rocchigiani, the younger brother of fellow boxer Ralf, won the IBF world super-middleweight title in 1988 but is best known on UK shores for sharing a ring with Chris Eubank in 1994. A year later, he was involved in two big fights in Germany against Henry Maske and then, in 1998, he defeated Michael Nunn to lift the WBC world light-heavyweight title.
Two titles in two different weight classes, some ten years apart, Rocchigiani, the boxer, was a fine example of perseverance and longevity. He was a pro for 20 years and retired in 2003 with a record of 41-6-1 (19).
It could end up being a week to remember for Joe Gallagher’s gym if Callum Johnson can replicate the good work of gym mate Callum Smith and rip the IBF world light-heavyweight title from Artur Beterbiev this Saturday (October 6) in Chicago.
Smith, of course, stopped George Groves inside seven rounds on Friday to secure the WBA world super-middleweight title and win the World Boxing Super Series’ Muhammad Ali trophy in the process. He finished the job in seven rounds and impressed from the outset.
Motivated by this, it’s now the turn of Johnson to try and do something similar in the Windy City.
“Callum’s win has just inspired me even more to win here,” said Johnson in Chicago. “It was a stunning performance and he’s the number one in the division now. That’s what I want to become at light-heavyweight.
“I’ve dreamed of moments like this since I was a kid. No one else wants to fight him but I can’t wait to get in there. I’m living the dream and I genuinely believe I will shock the world.”
Admittedly, the task facing Johnson is a damn sight tougher, on paper, than the one that faced Smith last Friday. Beterbiev, undefeated in 12 fights, with every one of them secured by knockout, might not have the proven pedigree of Groves, but he’s a man at the top of his game, and a ferocious puncher to boot.
Johnson, no fool, realises he’s up against it.
“I know about him, but if I wasn’t confident I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “We were amateurs around the same time, but we never came across each other to fight. Now we are fighting and it’s on a massive stage for a world title, so it’s even better.
“He is a strong, powerful beast and he’s a very good fighter. It’s a tough ask, but it’s a challenge I am up for and I’m full of belief.
“We’re not going to have to look for each other. He likes to KO people and so do I. We’ll meet in the middle of the ring and let the bombs go. There will be thought involved and we can both box, but we both want to take people out with big shots, so it’s going to be exciting.”