Don’t compare him to Rocky
Although he’s only 18 years old, Mike Marrone has been in the boxing game for nearly a decade. As a 9-year-old, Marrone was the kid who pestered everyone at the gym, looking for a chance to strap on some gloves.
Luckily for Marrone, one of the guys he pestered was Lou Duva, who just happens to be one of the most respected trainers and managers in the sport. Duva tested the kid’s resolve by having him do menial tasks like counting punches for other boxers and carrying spit buckets. When Marrone didn’t go away, Duva decided to give him a chance.
That chance has paid off with a highly successful amateur career (Marrone was ranked as high as third in the country) and a promising professional start, as he has recorded early-round knockouts in his first two pro bouts.
“You don’t see a lot of kids that small hanging around the gym and really wanting to be there,” Duva said. “But when they do, and they fall in love with boxing, they usually end up being pretty good fighters. They learn all about the game.”
Marrone is scheduled to face Michael Moncrief (1-2-1, 1 KO) on Saturday night as part of a five-fight card at Caesars Tahoe in Stateline. Duva will be in his corner as well as the corner of welterweight Oscar Diaz (17-1, 10 KO), who will face Juan Carlos Amezcua (9-1, 7 KO).
Duva doesn’t have an official title in Marrone’s management, but he keeps a close eye on the kid he helped raise in the gym. Marrone now trains under Gus Curren at the House of Champions in Vero Beach, Fla., where he first met Duva.
Marrone has won several state and regional championships but came up short of the ultimate amateur prize: a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. After being eliminated from an Olympic qualifier, Marrone decided it was time to get paid to fight.
“I really have more of a pro style and I have to make sure to get in and get out in right time,” Marrone said. “If I spent four more years in amateurs, it might have been a detriment to my health. I felt like I was ready to move on.”
Marrone needed only two rounds to knock out Tracy Williams in his first professional fight earlier this year, but it was his next bout that really established Marrone as an up-and-comer. Fighting in front of a huge crowd at the Boxing Hall of Fame’s induction weekend last month in New York, Marrone floored Rodney Collins twice in the opening round for a quick win.
For Marrone, the thrill of meeting boxing legends like Carmen Basilio and Marvin Hagler was nearly as good as winning his match. The biggest highlight was shaking hands with Jake LaMotta, the inspiration behind the seminal boxing film “Raging Bull.”
“I was like a kid in a candy store,” Marrone said. “To meet Jake LaMotta was unbelievable. I’ve seen that movie so many times, I could probably quote it line for line.”
Marrone shies away from the inevitable comparisons with another fistic film legend, “Rocky” (young Italian fighter, crusty older mentor).
“There are lots of stereotypes out there. If you’re an Italian fighter, you’re supposed to be a dumb, tough guy who just slugs away,” Marrone said. “I don’t want to complain if people want to compare me to that, but there are lots of ways to fight. Willie Pep was a great champion, won hundreds of fights, and he was the opposite of Rocky.”