Ranking Every Rocky Opponent From Worst To Best

6 – Paulie

Yes, Rocky did get into a brawl with his brother-in-law. At the height of Rocky’s fame in the third movie, a jealous Paulie takes a few swings at bro-in-law Balboa. It never connects, and Rocky was probably being facetious when he complemented his friend’s form, but props to Paulie for summoning the guts to take on the world champ.

5 – Big Yank Ball

This guy earns a respectable ranking solely based on his name, which was put on a Vegas marquee. The kicker? The actor’s nickname is ALSO Big Yank Ball. One thing is for sure; he sure didn’t have a ball when Rocky yanked him around.

4 – Thunderlips

Here’s a weird thing about the Rocky movies; half the title fights are sanctioned bouts, and the other half are “exhibition” matches that turn out to be brutal wars of attrition. It all started with Thunderlips, who fights a goddamn Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match against Rocky to help sponsor an after-school kid’s club. At least this friendly fight only ended with the fighters being thrown into unwitting crowd members and nobody in the ring died.

3 – George Washington Duke

As far as the enjoyment per punch ratio goes, you can’t beat Rocky’s one-punch knockout of Rocky V’s Don King-esque villain (who’s leagues more evil than Rocky’s unfaithful protégé). I like to think that the Italian Stallion’s modest earnings as a restauranter in Rocky Balboa were docked and that a large sum was actually awarded to the crooked promoter as part of a lawsuit settlement.

2 – Ivan Drago

As far as his two fights go, Drago has a pretty decent resume, murdering Apollo Creed and killing tons of Rocky Balboa’s brain cells. He’s also the most physically intimidating boxer ever put in a ring in any Rocky film. The one problem? Drago was on the gas. He’s the only competitor in the entire series to be portrayed as a steroid abuser, so Drago’s legacy is tainted with an asterisk.

1 – Apollo Creed

Apollo Creed was *so* close to ending Rocky’s rise to fame before it ever happened. Had he undergone even moderately competent training in his first fight against Balboa (rather than focusing on promotion and showboating), he would have had a much more decisive victory. In the second movie, he easily outscores Rocky for the whole fight, but changes up his strategy to attempt a knockout. When that fails and Apollo is taken down instead, he’s just a second away from surviving the final round and winning a second-straight decision. Again, he later loses to Ivan Drago, but that’s only because he falls back to his showboating ways and didn’t expect a friendly exhibition match to become bloodsport. The result of their empty gym exhibition is never revealed, but I bet Creed wiped the floor with Balboa at the end of Rocky III, thus making Apollo the posthumous best.

What do you think of these rankings? Where would you list Big Yank Ball? Let us know in the comments below!

11 thoughts on “Ranking Every Rocky Opponent From Worst To Best

  1. 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.”

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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….

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