Which fight is Rocky Balboa really the best?

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Here’s the most exciting, realistic, and emotional fight in the Rocky franchise. Throughout the years, Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa went through grueling physical challenges that put his body and mind to the test. Every match required him to push his limits, as life and honor were always at stake.

Rocky proved his worth as the underdog in 1976’s Rocky, cemented himself as a real boxer in Rocky II and Rocky III, represented his country in Rocky IV, protected his legacy in Rocky V and Rocky Balboa, and passed on the torch in the Creed movies. Rocky’s motivation was different each time he stepped into the ring, and every boxer Rocky fought had a unique set of skills. This led to very distinctive fights where victory wasn’t guaranteed for the Italian Stallion.

Related: Who Is The Rocky Franchise’s Best Boxing Trainer? Why It’s Not Balboa

Every fight in the Rocky franchise has its own charm. Some are more grounded than the rest, while others are more brutal or emotional. But taking into account every element that makes a boxing match unforgettable, there’s one Rocky installment that beats the rest. Here’s which one comes out on top.

Which Rocky Balboa Fight Is The Most Realistic?

When focusing on the technical details, it’s easy to see that most Rocky fights are unrealistic in some way or another. Most attacks are far too clean, the matches always last long enough for a climactic resolution, and Rocky builds a legendary career even though he rarely protects his face. This is especially clear in Rocky IV, where Ivan Drago is able to kill Apollo Creed, but fails to beat Rocky with the same amount of strength in fifteen rounds. Similarly, Mason Dixon is far too brutal while fighting an older Rocky in Rocky Balboa, though Rocky’s final fight does reflect how chaotic things can get in such a historical event.

Curiously, Rocky V, the least popular installment in the Rocky franchise, adds an unexpected layer of realism in the no-holds-barred street brawl between Rocky and Tommy Gunn, with a barrage of dirty moves that other movies were never able to use. However, Rocky V follows the action movie trope of making street fights unrealistically long and safe, despite them likely to quickly end in tragedy for everyone involved, regardless of how skilled they are in the ring.

Rocky II, on the other hand, is full of highlights. Carl Weathers moves just like a real athlete, and Apollo Creed performs as gracefully as Muhammad Ali with effortlessly swift combinations and perfect dodges. Apollo Creed is perhaps the most technically skilled fighter in the whole franchise, and even though his fight with Rocky is as long and dramatic as most others, it is simple enough to make the viewers forget they’re watching a movie. While Rocky IV gets an honorable mention due to Sylvester Stallone’s real-life beating at the hands of Dolph Lundren, Rocky II is where the match looks the most authentic.

Which Of Rocky’s Boxing Matches Is The Most Exciting?

The unique stakes in each Rocky movie make every fight feel as exciting as the first time Rocky stepped into the ring. Seeing Rocky become a real boxer in the first movie made history for a reason, and the fact that Rocky ends up losing set the precedent that victory is never guaranteed. With this context, Rocky II’s rematch is more exciting, as Rocky already knows how to defeat Apollo Creed. Rocky III’s Thunderlips battle is the most lighthearted, and it contrasts with Rocky’s hunger to knock down heavyweight Clubber Lang’s arrogance. Rocky IV ties back to the first two movies’ emotional core with Rocky’s urge to avenge Apollo, while Rocky V puts Rocky’s life in danger and Rocky Balboa puts his whole legacy at stake.

Related: Rocky: Every Character Stallone Killed Off (& Why)

The best part about Rocky II’s fight, however, is that it’s also nerve-racking even without any context. The sheer weight in both fighters’ punches can make anybody wince, and the emotion increases exponentially as they slowly lose their confidence and their stamina throughout fifteen rounds. Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers perfectly convey the pain Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed go through, and there’s no need for dialog or flashbacks to understand that they’re giving it their all. The unfiltered reactions from the audience and the fighters’ loved ones each time one of them lands a hit also pump up the adrenaline, and the climax doesn’t come in the form of a predictable knockout, but instead as both fighters’ struggle to climb the ropes and end the match.

Why Rocky II’s Rematch Is Rocky Balboa’s Best Fight

If Rocky designed a great climactic boxing match, then Rocky II perfected it. Rocky’s hot-headed attitude and Apollo’s arrogance slowly degrade with every punch to the point that they just flail their arms toward each other by the fifteenth round. To top it off, they knock themselves out at the same time, and their rush for the ropes ends up being more dramatic than any final punch in the franchise. Even after Rocky stands up, he barely manages to walk a couple of steps before his body gives in. This victory encapsulates the main theme of the whole Rocky franchise, which is that Rocky is special not because of his strength, but because of his will to keep fighting until the very end. As a bonus, it’s this fight that earns him Apollo’s friendship, which continues to influence Rocky‘s life while training Apollo’s son decades later.

 

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