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Every Fight In The Rocky And Creed Movies Ranked

Actor and filmmaker Sylvester Stallone catapulted into international superstardom in his role as Philadelphia boxer Rocky Balboa in the Academy Award-winning "Rocky" film series. After the first six movies were released from 1976 to 2006, Stallone's sports franchise received its second wind with the debut of the "Creed" spinoff series in 2015, starring Michael B. Jordan as Adonis "Donnie" Creed. The son of the late heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), Adonis follows in his father's footsteps while being mentored by the older Rocky.

Every "Rocky" and "Creed" movie revolves around its eponymous boxer protagonist embarking on a grueling brawl, often with the world heavyweight title hanging in the balance. Tightly crafted, these fight sequences are among the most memorable in any boxing movie, keeping audiences riveted as Rocky and Adonis take on one formidable opponent after another. Here are all the fights from the entire "Rocky" movie franchise ranked. Note that this ranking excludes bouts briefly seen in montages, focusing only on the set-piece fights in the franchise.

20. Rocky Balboa: Mason Dixon vs. an unnamed challenger

The 2006 film "Rocky Balboa" opens with an introduction of the Italian Stallion's latest opponent rather than starting with the eponymous protagonist himself. Mason "The Line" Dixon (Antonio Tarver) is established in the movie's prologue as the defending heavyweight champion, facing off against an unnamed challenger. The fight is brief and one-sided, underscoring that Dixon has yet to face an opponent who will truly test him as he quickly wins by knockout.

While the entire point of this opening fight is to show how uninspired a boxer Dixon has become, a feeling that spreads to the crowd, who proceed to pelt him with ice cubes, it similarly fails to rouse the audience. The odd choice to showcase the fight with a desaturated blue filter makes for puzzling cinematography while the truncated length doesn't set the stage as effectively as it should, with Dixon's motivations explained better later in the film. Dixon would be Rocky's last opponent in the ring, but his introductory fight feels like a more perfunctory entrance that starts the movie on a languid note.

19. Rocky: Rocky Balboa vs. Spider Rico

The first fight ever seen in the "Rocky" franchise isn't for a championship title, revenge, or to determine the fate of the Cold War. Instead, Rocky Balboa's first opponent is a low-level boxer named Spider Rico (Pedro Lovell), whom the Italian Stallion fights in a local boxing match in a converted church. The fight fails to thrill the attending audience, who audibly boos the proceedings until the match turns ugly with several illegal moves.

Growing frustrated, the Puerto Rican boxer headbutts Rocky, giving him a small cut above his eye, enraging the southpaw slugger. Rocky knocks Spider down and proceeds to beat him while he is down on the ground, winning the fight, if in an equally underhanded way. Awkwardly staged and without the gusto of later fights in the film series, Rocky's trainer, Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith), best sums up the fight by spitting that Spider is nothing but a bum.

18. Creed II: Viktor Drago vs. an unnamed opponent

The prologue to 2018's "Creed II" introduces Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the no-nonsense son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who trains diligently with his father in Ukraine. Far from being hailed as the champions of the Soviet Union, the Drago family has fallen on pretty hard times, as Ivan and his son share a tiny apartment. Viktor is seen fighting against an unnamed opponent in a dingy local boxing match, easily overpowering the other boxer to secure a knockout victory.

While the fight itself is effective, albeit noticeably brief, in establishing Ivan's son and Viktor following in his father's footsteps, it diminishes the mystique behind him somewhat. The first time Ivan is seen in the ring in "Rocky IV," neither Rocky Balboa nor Apollo Creed is aware of what he's capable of. In revealing Viktor taking out no-name boxers in Ukraine, the audience is already savvy on just how formidable the heir to Drago's legacy is long before he fights Adonis.

17. Creed: Adonis Creed vs. an unnamed opponent

After a pre-title prologue showcasing Adonis as a child, 2015's "Creed" fast-forwards to the present day, with an adult Adonis fighting in local boxing matches in Tijuana. In a long sequence appearing as a single take, Adonis hypes himself up in a dimly lit backroom before walking through the crowd into the ring, where he defeats his unnamed challenger. The fight itself is shadowy and fierce, with Adonis already displaying a natural gift for pugilism that he inherited from his father, culminating in him winning by knockout.

The fight shows just how intense Adonis is, willing to box wherever he can to satiate the fire to get into the ring and prove that he is worthy of his father's legacy. However, for all of Michael B. Jordan's bravado in introducing the adult Adonis to the audience, the fight is dimly lit, and the constraints of setting a single-take sequence in the space limits what can be seen in the ring. The technical aspects surrounding the fight are an impressive sign of greater things to come from the 2015 film, but the fight itself doesn't quite match that ambition.

16. Rocky V: Rocky Balboa vs. Tommy Gunn

The hits keep coming for Rocky and the Balboa family in 1990's "Rocky V," with the boxer forced to retire from troubling brain damage and the family fortune lost while they were away in the Soviet Union. Stripped back down to his basics in South Philadelphia, Rocky finds a new purpose in life by mentoring a young boxer named Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison). However, Tommy quickly falls into the wrong crowd as he rises to become the heavyweight champion, creating bad blood between him and his mentor in an effort to goad him into a fight.

Refusing to go back into the ring, Rocky challenges his former protege into a street fight outside of his local bar, with the upstart champion accepting. What follows is the most unorthodox climactic bout in the "Rocky" franchise, with Rocky relying on streetwise tricks rather than following usual boxing protocol. Making the fight all the more bizarre, rather than triumphant, are awkward visions of Rocky's late mentor, Mickey, encouraging him to fight from beyond the grave.

15. Creed: Adonis Creed vs. Danny Wheeler

After winning underground boxing matches in Mexico, an arrogant Adonis decides to make a play to cement his legacy in the United States by challenging the top fighter at his local boxing club in Los Angeles. Putting his vintage Mustang on the line, Adonis enters the ring against Danny "Stuntman" Wheeler (Andre Ward) and receives a painful lesson in humility. Just as "Creed" begins with Adonis showing his natural chops for boxing, his second fight in the 2015 film underscores how far from the top he truly is.

Immediately as his fight against Wheeler begins, Adonis is put on the defensive, in sharp contrast to how he dominated his fight in Mexico. Mercifully, this fight sequence is even shorter than Adonis' previous bout, with Wheeler cleanly knocking his boastful challenger out cold and winning the bet. A short but sweet match, Adonis' first fight against Wheeler is what leads him to realize how badly he needs to find a boxing mentor.

14. Rocky III: Rocky vs. Thunderlips

Most of Rocky's fights in the film series are against fellow boxers, but the one major exception takes place in "Rocky III" as Rocky confronts a professional wrestler in the ring. Agreeing to participate in an exhibition match for charity, Rocky faces off against Thunderlips (Hulk Hogan), the current world wrestling champion. While Rocky assumes the nature of the fight will just have the two play for the cameras, Thunderlips takes the fight for real and tosses the Italian Stallion around like a ragdoll.

The fight against Thunderlips is certainly the most bizarre match in the "Rocky" franchise to date but is something of an entertaining, over-the-top spectacle. What was supposed to be a friendly exhibition quickly descends into sheer chaos before Rocky begins playing by Thunderlips' rules to even the score. Perhaps the best portrait of the excesses that the series embraced in the '80s, the Thunderlips brawl is a lot of fun as long as viewers don't put a lot of thought into it.

13. Creed II: Adonis Creed vs. Danny Wheeler

While it was Danny Wheeler who humbled Adonis in the original "Creed," it's their rematch that proves just how much Adonis had grown as a boxer since their first encounter. In the time since the 2015 film, Wheeler had risen to become the heavyweight champion of the world and defends his title against Adonis. More than just vying for the championship title, Adonis is angling to win back his beloved Mustang as the two fighters engage in their long-awaited rematch.

Just as Wheeler dominated Adonis in their first skirmish, Adonis quickly takes control of the fight in the championship ring. Though the rematch lasts longer than their initial encounter, Adonis ultimately triumphs, winning the title and his car back to the crowd's approval. This introduction for Adonis at the beginning of "Creed II" fulfills the boxer's lifelong ambition, giving him the world before cruelly taking it away as the story progresses.

12. Rocky: Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed

The original "Rocky" has world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed handpick the Italian Stallion on a whim to fight him for the title when his intended challenger drops out at the last minute. The decision changes Rocky's life forever, as he trains diligently for a match that the public dismisses as little more than a publicity stunt. This changes when Rocky becomes the first recorded fighter to knock down Apollo before the two men spend the entire allotted 15 rounds fighting each other in the ring.

The climactic showdown to "Rocky" is when the constraints of its production are the most evident, with its rough choreography and the vast majority of the fight not depicted on-screen. Punches that presumably connect visibly swing wide, even with the actors doing their best to sell the impact with their reactions. What the fight makes up for with this lackluster choreography is emotion, with both actors delivering the determination through immense exhaustion as they trade blows while Rocky shocks the world.

11. Rocky Balboa: Rocky Balboa vs. Mason Dixon

While Rocky is in his 60s by the time he emerges from retirement in "Rocky Balboa," he proves to the world that he's still a formidable fighter and not to be discarded due to his advancing age. Realizing he doesn't have the speed he possessed in his prime, Rocky emphasizes building up his strength to deliver some truly punishing blows on his considerably younger opponent. This strategy pays off, with Rocky ending his career on a high note while Mason Dixon finally receives the legitimate challenger he's been waiting for since winning the title.

The opening rounds of Rocky and Mason's bout are shown as if they were a real televised boxing match, with similar film quality and camera angles as the announcers call the match. What cheapens the fight somewhat is that Mason accidentally injures his hand striking Rocky's hip early in the match, giving Rocky an unplanned advantage. Though this perhaps makes the fight a bit more believable, it undercuts the core concept that Rocky could still viably fight the champion despite his age, making the injury unfairly alter the odds.

10. Rocky III: Rocky Balboa vs. Clubber Lang (first fight)

By the time "Rocky III" begins, the Italian Stallion has completely settled into his life of luxury and defended his title as heavyweight champion on 10 separate occasions. This blissful life on top is upended when the vicious challenger Clubber Lang (Mr. T) works up the ranks and goads Rocky into accepting a fight request. As the two men square off, Rocky quickly learns just how sheltered he allowed himself to become as Clubber knocks him out within the second round.

"Rocky III" is the one instance where the Italian Stallion's tried and true strategy of wearing his opponent out by enduring a stream of punches fails him. With Rocky's original mentor Mickey suffering from a fatal heart attack moments before the fight begins, Rocky is afraid and distracted as Clubber punishes him. This centerpiece fight in "Rocky III" reinstills a much-needed sense of humility for Rocky, while the bout itself is quick and brutal.

9. Rocky II: Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed

While the climactic confrontation in the original "Rocky" may not have aged well, especially compared to the rest of the series, the final fight in "Rocky II" makes up for it. To date, "Rocky II" is the only film in the franchise that only has a single fight in it, and the 1979 sequel ensures that this scene delivers. Despite Rocky and Apollo insisting in the previous film that there would be no rematch between them, "Rocky II" maneuvers the two back in the ring for a bout that far exceeds their prior encounter.

Out to prove that Rocky's faring so well against him before was simply a fluke, Apollo starts out the rematch by painfully beating Rocky to a pulp. However, having proven himself as a legitimate fighter, Rocky is willing to endure any attack and prevail for the sake of his wife, Adrian (Talia Shire), and their newborn son (an uncredited Seargeoh Stallone). With much more dynamic staging and more of the bout itself depicted on-screen than its predecessor, the climax of "Rocky II" is where the franchise's sensibilities with its fight sequences take shape.

8. Creed II: Adonis Creed vs. Viktor Drago (first fight)

Just as Rocky painfully learned the price of his overconfidence in "Rocky III," Adonis undergoes a similarly brutal lesson halfway through "Creed II." After learning that Ivan Drago, the man who killed his father, has a son named Viktor who is also a trained boxer, Adonis agrees to fight the younger Drago. However, Adonis does this without the support and guidance of Rocky, who refuses to be responsible for another Creed dying in the ring, leaving the unfocused Adonis at a disadvantage.

Fortunately for Adonis, history does not repeat itself in his first fight against Viktor, though he is badly beaten by the more physically imposing boxer. Enduring severe damage to his ribs, Adonis is saved only by Viktor striking him while he's already down, effectively ending the fight with a disqualification and Adonis retaining his championship title. Perhaps the most grueling bout in the franchise to date, Adonis and Viktor's first brawl underscores how painfully intimate the movie's core conflict truly is.

7. Rocky V: Tommy Gunn vs. Union Cane

Though Rocky is forced to retire because of concerning health issues at the start of "Rocky V," he still longs to be a part of the sport he has dedicated his life towards. This opportunity comes in the form of eager, young boxer Tommy Gunn, though Tommy ditches Rocky for prominent boxing promoter George Washington Duke (Richard Gant). Despite this falling out, Rocky remains invested in Tommy's career and watches intently on television as Tommy challenges Union Cane (Michael Williams) for the heavyweight championship.

What makes Tommy and Cane's fight so memorable is that it allows Rocky to vicariously relive his glory days in the ring as he watches the bout from home. As Tommy triumphs using techniques he learned from Rocky, the Italian Stallion imagines he's fighting Cane himself, going through old moves on a nearby heavy bag. The sequence is one of the most emotionally engaging scenes in "Rocky V" while delivering the boxing thrills audiences have come to love from the franchise.

6. Rocky IV: Apollo Creed vs. Ivan Drago

The trajectories of Rocky and Adonis' lives change forever when Apollo challenges Ivan Drago to an exhibition bout in Las Vegas in "Rocky IV." Wanting to prove to himself that he was still a viable boxer while showcasing that the United States could triumph over the Soviet champion, Apollo pays the ultimate price. What ostensibly starts as a showy spectacle, complete with an opening song provided by James Brown results in a fatal tragedy within two rounds as Ivan kills Apollo with a punch to the head.

Apollo being beaten to death by Ivan before a shocked crowd, including his wife, is one of the franchise's most heartbreaking scenes. Feeling that the fight is bigger than himself, Apollo refuses to allow Rocky to throw in the towel and call the fight off. A one-sided fight that showcases just how lethal Ivan is, Apollo's final bout is one of the series' most pivotal and cruel moments.

5. Creed: Adonis Creed vs. Ricky Conlan

Adonis gets the chance to prove he is worthy of his father's legacy in the public eye when he's given a shot at the heavyweight title against Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew) in 2015's "Creed." The climactic bout evokes Rocky and Apollo's first match against each other, albeit executed with much more engaging staging and choreography, making it one of the best fights in the series. Ricky and the public are unconvinced Adonis' boxing career is little more than a gimmick capitalizing on his father's fame, only to be quickly proven wrong.

Adonis proves he's just as capable of meting out punishment as he is taking it, gamely rising to take on Conlan after enduring a knockdown while delivering a knockdown to the champion himself. Similar to Rocky, Adonis loses the fight on a split decision but wins the public's adoration for being able to go the distance against the seasoned champ. An excellent showcase of Adonis' fighting ability, "Creed" may end in a nominal defeat, but Apollo's son wins the moral victory.

4. Creed: Adonis Creed vs. Leo Sporino

While Adonis' fight against Conlan closes out the original "Creed," it's his fight against Leo Sporino (Gabriel Rosado) that is the standout from the 2015 film. Fighting under his mother's name as Adonis Johnson, the match is the first that has Rocky in Adonis' corner as he takes on Sporino, a local sensation in Philadelphia. More than just showing how much Adonis has benefited from Rocky's mentorship, the bout is one of the most technically impressive feats in the franchise.

Adonis and Sporino's match is presented as a long, single take with filmmaker Ryan Coogler maneuvering the camera in the middle of the action. This unbroken sequence and the unique perspective amidst the fighting make the centerpiece fight particularly visceral for the audience, rotating around the boxers and their respective cornermen. The most innovative fight the "Rocky" franchise has committed to the big screen, Adonis' triumphant battle against Sporino catapults "Creed" to new heights.

3. Creed II: Adonis Creed vs. Viktor Drago (rematch)

As the fateful rematch between Adonis and Viktor, there is a lot of expectation riding on the climax of "Creed II" and, fortunately, the 2018 film delivers. The sons of Creed and Drago's first encounter was a brutally unflinching affair, and their rematch is no different, but it allows the two fighters to stand on relatively even ground while lasting until the final round. While Viktor is counting on his overpowering strength ending the fight early again, Adonis looks to draw the battle out to wear down and punish his opponent.

With its choreography and stylized action, the climax to "Creed II" effectively blends modern moviemaking sensibilities and personal stakes with thrilling results. Though Adonis is better prepared than he was in his initial skirmish against Viktor, the odds are still running against him in the grueling grudge match. With each fighter doling out and receiving a tremendous number of frenzied punches, "Creed II" ends with one the best fights in the entire series.

2. Rocky IV: Rocky Balboa vs. Ivan Drago

After Ivan savagely murders Apollo during an exhibition bout in "Rocky IV," the Italian Stallion becomes obsessed with avenging his friend by beating Ivan in the ring in Moscow. After two back-to-back training montages in the Siberian wilderness, Rocky faces off against Ivan in the most stylized fight sequence in the franchise. Though Ivan had not shown any signs of weakness in his fight against Apollo, Rocky draws blood from the younger boxer early in his Soviet match, revealing that he won't go down so easily.

Set to a rousing score from composer Vince DiCola, Rocky and Ivan's fight shows the two men giving as good as they get while furiously trading blows. Though Ivan holds an advantage in height and reach, Rocky's superior endurance allows him to endure some brutal blows before moving in to knock the Russian down to size. With a performance in the ring that makes even Mikhail Gorbachev (an uncredited David Lloyd Austin) applaud him, Rocky becomes a bonafide global icon in the climax of "Rocky IV."

1. Rocky III: Rocky Balboa vs. Clubber Lang (rematch)

Rocky's usual strategy in triumphing over his opponents involves him wearing them down by enduring a barrage of blows before toppling them with his southpaw swings. This tactic proves completely ineffective against Clubber in "Rocky III," with the Chicago slugger delivering punches even Rocky can't repeatedly weather. After being knocked out by Clubber in the second round of their first match, Rocky changes up his strategy for their rematch at the end of the movie, with guidance from Apollo.

Entering the ring the lightest and fastest he's ever been, Rocky fights like he never has before or since in his rematch against Clubber. Sticking and moving before goading Clubber into taking wild swings to wear himself out, Rocky is at his most resourceful and cunning in "Rocky III." With the fight going back and forth and perfectly paced rather than lasting till the final round, "Rocky III" moves as briskly and engagingly as the sleek-minded Philly southpaw.