Our latest edition of the “Fight Freaks Unite Recap” Podcast, Dan Rafael, our insider off Big Fight Weekend, asserts that Sylvester Stallone’s third episode of his “Rocky” series of movies, “Rocky III,” is the best boxing movie ever made.
The movie, which debuted in theaters this weekend back in 1982 and has had a massive financial success since the early 1980s.
Hear the debate off the podcast by clicking play below,
As for the particulars,
“Rocky III” opened in theaters on May 28th, 1982 to a tremendous financial windfall that Memorial Day weekend in the USA. The movie grossed over $16 million in its first few days out and within weeks had already made over $75 million at the box office in America and abroad.
With the foreign revenue, video and eventually DVD sales, as well as reruns, on premium cable television and now network TV / streaming, “Rocky III” has been a massive commercial success some 40 years later amassing over $270 million and counting.
This third installment of the series picked up with Sylvester Stallone’s character “Rocky Balboa” having built on his dramatic upset of heavyweight champion “Apollo Creed” played by Carl Weathers in the end sequence of Rocky III. That fight saw both fighters go down from a punch in the final round but Rocky makes his way up to his feet before the count of 10 where Creed cannot.
Now in the storyline continues with Balboa having made 10 title defenses and has become an ultra wealthy heavyweight champ with a mansion and business interests. He has certainly come a long way from his small apartment in a tough neighborhood in Philadelphia where “Paulie” played by Burt Young has befriended him and introduced him to his sister “Adrian” played by Talia Shire, whom Rocky eventually marries and has a son with in the second movie.
The storyline flows out of Rocky’s success but now and up and coming challenge from a contender based out of Chicago named “Clubber Lang” played by actor Mr T. Stallone actually discovered Mr, T, as he took part in a reality show about “America’s Toughest Bouncers” (his actual profession for several years) in early 1980 on NBC.
Clubber Lang’s character is a lot like Rocky in that he’s a hard-working fighter, for not a lot of money and coming out of a rough background and hungry to win the heavyweight championship. He quickly becomes a much bigger villain when he shows up at Rocky’s statue unveiling in Philadelphia and not only insults the heavyweight champ, but actually propositions Rocky’s wife.
Furious, that sets into motion Rocky to wanting to defend his title against Lang, but his longtime trainer and one of the key figures in the first two movies, “Mickey,” played by Burgess Meredith has strong reservations. This is, because he believes Rocky has gotten comfortable and “soft” as champion, while fighting easier opponents. The end result is Rocky convinces Mickey to still train him against his reservations against the dangerous Lang. However, things quickly escalate into a disaster when Lang and his entourage get into an altercation with Rocky and Mickey in the hallway on the way to the ring and where Mickey suffers a heart attack.
Predictably, Rocky is knocked out quickly by Clubber and thus, setting into motion the tremendous “plot turn,” where Balboa’s former arch rival Apollo Creed is now back to try to train him to beat Lang in a rematch.
Rocky goes through tremendous self-doubt and even though Creed is trying to “rekindle the fire” that Rocky had when he fought him, he’s unsuccessful. That is, until Adrian finally confronts Rocky about his fear a fighting Lang, again and his guilt over Mickey being dead.
Once she convinces him, Balboa cannot be stopped in his training including learning new boxing techniques with footwork and a jab to surprise Lang with in the rematch.
Ultimately, Rocky succeeds from his training and Apollo and Adrian’s help and defeats Lang by knockout in their second fight.
The movie concludes with Stallone and Weathers in an empty gym with boxing gear and gloves on, because Creed wants one more chance to fight Balboa in private with no fans or media present. The movie “Fades to Black” with both Fighters throwing the first punch simultaneously at each other and frozen on the screen.
Now, it’s clearly up for debate as to whether this edition is a good as the original (after all “Rocky” won the Oscar for “Best Picture” in 1976) or in line with other epic boxing movies like “Raging Bull” (1981) with Robert DeNiro (who won the Oscar for best actor) or “Million Dollar Baby’ (2004) with Hillary Swank, who won the Academy Award for best actress and also best picture or “Cinderella Man” (2005) with Russell Crowe, who was nominated for the Golden Glove Award??
Yes, debates like these are great and also, polarizing for those who enjoy boxing being portrayed on the “silver screen.”