With the original underdog boxing story approaching its 40th anniversary and the seventh film in the series hitting theaters, we’re rocking every major opponent for Rocky Balboa throughout his (mostly) knockout franchise.
Rocky has been the pre-eminent sports movie franchise since the original movie debuted in theaters back in 1976, and even though critics have levied insults at the series for hitting the sequel pipe one too many times (though six sequels in 39 years is a hell of a lot of restraint), most of Rocky Balboa’s cinematic exploits have been able to deliver drama and hard-hitting combat in equal doses. Even if the doses haven’t been as strong for the two most recent movies, early word about Creed seems to indicate that this fighter has found his footing once again (even if we are a bit angry that the seventh movie didn’t turn out to be Adrian’s Revenge).
Even if the the Rocky franchise is reinvigorated, it’s highly unlikely that any future film will ever put Sylvester Stallone’s iconic character in the ring again. With that in mind, we’ve ranked every notable fight the Italian Stallion has taken part in over the series’ first six films. Some caveats; sparring sessions don’t count, nor do completely unidentifiable fights (looking at you, Rocky III montage). If Rocky or his opponent threw a punch, it’s a fight. Okay? Now ring the bell!
11 – Clubber Lang
I know this is controversial, since Clubber Lang owns the only knockout victory recorded against Rocky, but I posit that Clubber Lang didn’t knock out Rocky Balboa. Grief and unpreparedness scored the victory there. Once Rocky got over Mickey’s death and took part in proper training thanks to Apollo Creed, he destroyed Clubber in the shortest non-montage victory in the entire series. Not much of a contender when you look at the tale of the tape.
10 – Tommy “The Machine” Gunn
Rocky V is just filled with stupid contrivances, and Tommy Gunn’s ranking is a result of the film’s stupidity. Rocky starts training the up-and-coming boxer because of a stupid legal move that makes the most famous champion ever dead broke. After Tommy betrays Rocky and beats a weak champion, the young Gunn challenges Balboa to a match. Despite Rocky being barred from fighting due to brain injuries, Rocky agrees to a street fight where there’s no money to be won. In the next movie, Rocky’s fit to fight, so I posit that Tommy Gunn was so ineffective that his punches actually healed Rocky.
9 – Spider Rico
I sometimes wonder if Spider Rico was able to capitalize on Rocky Balboa’s ascent. He may have lost in the second round to the Italian Stallion, but it was a brutal fight, so why didn’t Spider ask for a grudge rematch? He’d certainly be able to afford plenty of locker room beers from that fight purse.
8 – Trevor Faus
There’s a newspaper article during the Rocky III montage titled “Rocky KO’s German Champ,” and this is the Germaniest-sounding dude on the Rocky Wiki. In a way, this dude was a precursor to Ivan Drago. Rocky goes to a foreign country, charms the citizens, and steals all the native fighter’s fans. Though this time he had fun with it, since he’s beaming after trouncing the Kraut.
7 – Mason “The Line” Dixon
Has there ever been a Rocky character with less emotion and build than his opposition in 2006’s Rocky Babloa? Dixon was pissed off because he lost a CG fight against Rocky. His heavyweight world championship matches were also being rejected, which is totally unrealistic, since champs on his level would sell shows by themselves. He trains poorly and barely wins a match against a 60-year-old, and he’s supposed to be satisfied at the end? /shrugs
Rocky’s most unexpected opponent, the weirdest named boxer ever, Hulk Hogan, and more await your challenge on the next page!
11 thoughts on “Ranking Every Rocky Opponent From Worst To Best”
Tommy “The Machine” Gunn was played by Kansas City native Tommy Morrison. Tommy, as a boxer, had a crazy powerful left hook. Tommy, as a person, was kind of a piece of shit. When it was announced that he had HIV, the stories go that the HIV hotlines in KC lit up like Christmas trees. Tommy was a local celebrity who drove around in limos and picked up women left and right. Who knows how many he may have infected. Later, Tommy became an HIV denier and claimed that he cured himself through a good diet. Spoiler alert: Tommy died from what his mother described as “full blown AIDS.”
Great list Dave. The punch per enjoyment ratio is spot on with George Washington Duke. The writers made you want to hate the guy. Mission succeeded.
G.W. “Totally Not Don King” Duke was by and far the most obnoxious element of Rocky V, and his comeuppance couldn’t be more deserved. Controversial pick with placing Lang at the very bottom, but he couldn’t go the distance, so I suppose you could say he is a fool to be pitied. Next time I view Rocky III, I’ll keep an eye out for Big Yank Ball, which I can’t believe hasn’t stood out to my juvenile mind until just now.
The first Rocky is a great and Rocky 4 is about the height of 80’s pro-USA movies, which is not a bad thing, but the best opponent is and always will be Apollo Creed. One of the best scenes in the series is after Mickey is telling Rocky to stay down in the first movie, Rocky gets up, puts his hands up and Apollo’s shoulder just slump. It was perfect for the moment.
Love the article. Disagree with the Lang pick as he has more charisma than half the fighters on this list. Without that swagger how could he sell what is my favorite line of the whole series:
Prediction? … Pain.
Nice list. Now I wanna watch Rocky.
Legit list brotha; gotta go with “the meat” as his best opponent since he seems to face it in every film. Jk, but they did release a figure simply titled “meat” as part of the rocky figure set, back in 2006.
Great list as usual Dave. In Creed, they actually answer the age old question about who won in Rocky and Apollo’s behind-closed-doors match! It’s an excellent movie and definitely one of the better ones in the series. This coming from a diehard Rocky fan who even scrounges some merit from Rocky V, the worst of them all.
Awesome list, Dave! I love Rocky movies and Creed might be the second best one.
Clubber Lang should be much higher. His role in the whole series was far more influential than most of the other fighters on this list.
Apollo Creed is rightly number one, and I would also agree that Ivan Drago should be in second spot. I would actually rank Tommy Gunn in third. Gunn may not have particularly hurt Rocky physically, but he did hurt him emotionally.
Clubber Lang punched Rocky out… You have that incorrect. Grief is not what defeated Rocky… Unpreparedness did and even if he were prepared, inwhich Mickey told him not to take the fight, it was ultinately Clubber’s fought that Mickey died….