Roland La Starza
Roland La Starza (May 12, 1927 – September 30, 2009) was an American boxer and actor. Originally from the Van Nest section of the Bronx, La Starza fought 66 professional bouts from July 7, 1947 to May 8, 1961. He won 57 of the fights, 27 by knockout.
In a March 24, 1950 fight that went against him on a split decision, La Starza may have come closer than any other boxer to defeating Rocky Marciano. The scoring for the bout was 5–4, 4–5, 5–5, but La Starza lost on a supplemental point system used by New York and Massachusetts at that time. Both boxers were undefeated at the time of the fight, with La Starza's record at 37–0. According to newspaper reports, the decision was "universally condemned around ringside as a miscarriage of justice". La Starza himself went on record in the New York Herald Tribune, March 25, 1950, as saying, “The fact is his manager Al Weill was matchmaker for the Garden. I would say that had a lot to do with the decision.” He continued to maintain that belief for over 50 years after the bout.
La Starza later won a heavyweight title eliminator against Rex Layne, setting himself up for what was arguably the most important fight of his career: a world heavyweight championship bout that was a rematch against Marciano on September 24, 1953. La Starza fought Marciano on even terms for the first six rounds but began to tire afterwards. Referee Ruby Goldstein stopped the fight in an eleventh round TKO as Marciano battered La Starza relentlessly. This was La Starza's first fight (out of 53) in which he was stopped.
After his boxing career La Starza appeared on television in a number of stereotypical tough-guy roles. His biggest break was a regular role as Pvt. Ernie Lucavich on the short-lived World War II series The Gallant Men. He also did guest appearances on various shows including 77 Sunset Strip, The Wild Wild West and Perry Mason. He appeared in some episodes (13 and 14) of the Batman series of the 1960s, and appeared in movies such as Point Blank (1967) and The Outfit (1973).
He, his wife (Jane) and two children (Amy and Mark) left California to retire at their family's cattle ranch outside of New Smyrna Beach, Florida in 1972.
La Starza died on September 30, 2009, in Port Orange, Florida at the age of 82.
By Dean Hanley
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