Former heavyweight title challenger Roland E. LaStarza, 82, of Port Orange, Florida died Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at the Hospice Care Center, Port Orange.
Mr. LaStarza, an Army veteran of World War II, was born in Bronx, New York and moved to the area in 1973 from Los Angeles, California. He enjoyed acting and appeared in several episodes of the television show The Gallant Men. He also enjoyed flying, playing pool and reading.
Survivors include one son, Mark LaStarza, M.D. of Ormond Beach; one daughter, Amy Farmwald of Port Orange and five grandchildren.
LaStarza fought 66 professional bouts from July 7, 1947 to May 8, 1961. He won 57 of the fights, 27 by knockout. The most important fight of LaStarza’s career was a world heavyweight championship bout, and a rematch, against Rocky 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) when he was stopped.
After his boxing career LaStarza 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 even showed up in a couple episodes of the campy Batman series of the 1960s, and appeared in a few movies such as Point Blank (1967) and The Outfit (1973).