“…Of all boxers it seems to have been Rocky Marciano who trained with the most monastic devotion; his training methods have become legendary. Marciano was willing to seclude himself from the world, including his wife and family, for as long as three months before a fight.
Apart from the grueling physical ordeal of this period and the obsessive preoccupation with diet and weight and muscle tone, Marciano concentrated on one thing; the upcoming fight.
Every minute of his life was defined in terms of the opening second of the fight. In his training camp the opponent’s name was never mentioned in Marciano’s hearing, nor was boxing as a subject discussed. In the final month, Marciano would not write a letter since a letter related to the outside world. During the last ten days before a fight he would see no mail, take no telephone calls, meet no new acquaintances.
During the week before the fight he would not shake hands. Or go for a ride in a car, however brief. No new foods! No dreaming of the morning after the fight! For all that was not the fight had to be excluded from consciousness.
When Marciano worked out with a punching bag he saw his opponent before him, when he jogged he saw his opponent close beside him, no doubt when he slept he ‘saw’ his opponent constantly—as the cloistered monk or nun chooses by an act of fanatical will to ‘see’ only God. “Madness? — or merely discipline? — this absolute subordination of the self. In any case, for Marciano, it worked.”
Joyce Carol Oates