Fernando Rocco: El guerrero del ring

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Ídolo indiscutible de la época de oro del boxeo nacional, Fernando Rocco fue campeón latinoamericano welter y número 1 del ranking mundial. El 31 de marzo cumplió 65 años.

Se vino a Lima con el pretexto de estudiar, pero al llegar no dudó en trepar el ring de La Bombonera del Estadio Nacional. Para evitar la prohibición de sus padres –una pareja de campesinos que se oponía a que se dedicara a un deporte marcado por los golpes y el dolor–, se ha transformado en “Fernando Rocco”.

Imbatible hasta la pelea final, fue la revelación del torneo Guantes de Oro 1974, en el que solo cayó ante Dante La Rosa. En octubre de ese año, sus guantes volverían brillar en el Campeonato Nacional de Novicios. Ahí, Rocco representó a Huaral, con corazón y entrega total a los puños. Aprendió que lo único prohibido es caer sin honor.

Luego se consagraría campeón nacional amateur. Ese título le abriría las puertas de la selección nacional. Y en el Sudamericano de Uruguay, en 1976, logró el subtítulo.

Etapa profesional
El debut del crédito huaralino en las filas rentadas no pudo ser más auspicioso. El 14 de octubre de 1977 vencía por nocaut en el primer asalto al púgil Alejandro Muedas.

“Rocco mostró suficientes atributos para ser a corto plazo el ‘gallito’ de la división de los medianos”, pronosticó el diario La Crónica. Cuentan que ese día Rocco se quedó con el público del gran Marcelo Quiñones, quien en el estelar de la misma velada le ganó al estadounidense Larry Davis.

Mientras que en el mundo Rocky Balboa era el nuevo mimado de Hollywood, en Lima, Rocco seguía por la senda del nocaut. Sus rivales caían en los primeros rounds ante la demoledora fuerzas de sus puños. Besaron la lona del coliseo Amauta los ecuatorianos Luis Castro y Héctor Salcedo. El ring del Estadio Nacional vio caer al estadounidense Johnny Davis.

Pero la pelea que le daría la categoría de ídolo la disputó el 15 diciembre de 1978 contra el campeón chileno Roberto Iluffi, a quien ganó por puntos en duro combate ante 10,000 espectadores en el Amauta.

Desde entonces, su vida y sus hazañas tomaron las portadas de los suplementos deportivos. Periodistas y público querían saber más de “el Rocky peruano”.

“Cuando llego a Huaral me siento muy feliz, pero cuando tengo que dejar mis lares siento una profunda tristeza. A veces del paradero de colectivos me he regresado al lado de mi padre, que como un roble sigue dándole a la tierra; pero luego me enfrento a la realidad, tomo mi maletín y de nuevo a Lima… necesito el aplauso limeño para seguir adelante”, recordaría Rocco.

Todo fue muy rápido para el púgil nacional. La gente lo reconocía, los niños lo seguían y le pedían autógrafos. 

Sin perder esa humildad, con buzo, polos desgastados y zapatillas de tela, venciendo las lesiones de su mano derecha, Fernando Rocco intensificó sus entrenamientos en el escenario que lo vio crecer como pugilista. Allí quedaría listo para tentar por fin la corona latinoamericana de su categoría.

Monarca latinoamericano

Es sábado 19 de setiembre de 1981. En una esquina, el retador, Fernando Rocco, 27 años, sencillo, carismático, muy aplicado y dueño de una excelente pegada. Trepó por primera vez a un ring con el sueño de esquivar la pobreza y ceñirse la gloria en forma de cinturón. 

En la otra esquina, con 36 peleas, el campeón latinoamericano, el ecuatoriano Wellington Wheatley. En el Coliseo Cerrado de Arequipa la multitud vitorea entusiasta al púgil nacional y ese aliento transforma al tranquilo muchacho provinciano en una máquina demoledora.

En el primer asalto, un impresionante derechazo al mentón manda a la lona al ecuatoriano, que logra reponerse. La potencia del huaralino quedaría ratificada en el sétimo asalto. Primero un cross y luego un cruzado de izquierda dejan tendido dos veces en un solo round a su rival, que se resigna a la derrota. Cuando Rocco se preparaba para demolerlo, Wheatley le levantó la mano reconociéndolo como el nuevo campeón.

“Rocco conquistó la corona latinoamericana welter”, tituló La Crónica. Su consagración continental fue transmitida por televisión e hizo vibrar a la afición que todavía celebraba la clasificación de Perú a España 82. No había dudas: Rocco tenía dinamita en los puños.

La defensa del título

Luego del título latinoamericano, Rocco ingresó en el ranking de la Asociación Mundial Boxeo (AMB) y los medios no tardaron en anunciar con entusiasmo peleas con Ray “Sugar” Leonard, Roberto “Mano de Piedra” Durán o Pipino Cuevas, monstruos de la categoría.

Lo cierto es que Rocco defendió su corona en varias oportunidades. Fue una época en la que también lo acusaron de pelear con verdaderos “paquetes” hasta que enfrentó, a mediados de 1982, al dominicano Inocencio “Mao” La Rosa, a quien vencería categóricamente.

Ese año haría su debut en rings de Estados Unidos nada menos que ante Rogger Stafford, estrella del boxeo gringo en la categoría welter. Rocco perdió por puntos.

Pero las peleas que fueron una verdadera lección de entrega y coraje son las que sostuvo ante Hugo Rengifo de Venezuela. En 1983 empató en un dramático y discutido combate de 12 asaltos. Un año después, le ganó por decisión unánime. “Rocco ganó a lo macho”, celebraron los diarios.

Estas presentaciones le valieron para que la AMB lo ubicara en el primer lugar del ranking de los welter reconociéndolo como el retador inmediato para disputar la corona mundial en manos del estadounidense Donald Curry.

Contra la adversidad

Cuando el cielo parecía el límite, la fatalidad noqueó al campeón peruano: una disputa con su empresario Jorge Bartra lo alejó del ring por largo tiempo. El deportista lo acusó de incumplimiento de contrato, de querer beneficiarse económicamente y solicitó a las autoridades la rescisión de este.

Sin respuestas, en noviembre de 1984, el púgil renunció a su título nacional y enrumbó hacia Argentina en busca de un amparo deportivo que le permitiera continuar su carrera, pero todo empeoró cuando la Federación Peruana de Boxeo lo suspendió 180 días por combatir sin autorización en tierras platenses.

En la cima de su carrera, Rocco veía cómo su sueño transmutaba en pesadilla. Jamás pudo disputar el título mundial, tal como lo hicieron Luis Ibáñez, Óscar Rivadeneyra y Orlando Romero Romerito en la época de oro del boxeo peruano. El huaralino, por el contrario, quedaría excluido del ranking mundial y enrumbaría a Estados Unidos a buscarse la vida fuera de las lonas.

Con 30 años encima y más de un año de inactividad, regresó al ring en 1985, pero su destino de gloria ya era inevitablemente esquivo. Rocco colgó los guantes el 18 marzo de 1988 en el cuadrilátero de la tribuna norte del Estadio Nacional. Como siempre, se fajó valientemente y le ganó al chileno Pedro Cabezas. Ese día, en hombros de su público, sin dinero, pero con la frente en alto, comprendió también que no hay golpe que pueda noquear al tiempo.

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