ROCKY III (1982)
BY the third film, the grit and struggle of the first two was way behind Balboa. He was an unstoppable heavyweight champion, retaining his title 10 times with a string of daft knockouts, challengers being flung through the air by the force of Balboa’s power punches.
Making his way up the rankings was a fighter Mickey would rather Rocky didn’t face, the formidable Clubber Lang [above], a brooding, ruthless southpaw who was so intimidating referees let him get away with hitting his opponents when they were on the floor.
Lang was played by Mr T and might have been played by Earnie Shavers had he not failed his audition by hitting Stallone so hard in the stomach he had to run off to be sick. Turned out, Mickey was right about Lang… He didn’t see the first fight. Mickey was backstage fighting for his life having suffered a heart attack after being caught up in a melee when the fighters clashed on their way to the ring. Mickey died with a smile on his face, moments after Rocky told him he had beaten Lang in two rounds. Balboa was lying. It was he who had been blasted out early.
In Mickey’s absence, Creed trains Balboa, takes him back to his Los Angeles roots with the intention of giving Balboa rhythm and flexibility. A guard and some head movement might have been good ideas as well.
The transformation of Balboa doesn’t go well until Adrian gives Balboa a talking to on the beach and what follows is a stirring montage featuring some homo-erotic moments between Apollo and Balboa in the sea.
Following that, Rocky is ready for his final, careerdefining fight with Lang and, wearing Creed’s shorts, he comes out boxing like him, jabbing and moving, albeit at a pace that a strawweight would struggle to maintain for more than three rounds.
Balboa strays from the game plan in the second, reverting to his hands-down-getting-hit-very-hard-in-theface tactics. He ends up on the floor twice before getting back to his boxing. He blocks and counters effectively and then hits Lang flush with about a million punches to finally send him crashing.