From Rocky to Creed III: The story of the boxing saga so far

Yo Adrian, we did it... we summarised the entire 47-year Rocky saga for you

The Rocky saga has been on the ropes many times, but it always comes back fighting. (MGM)
The Rocky saga has been on the ropes many times, but it always comes back fighting. (MGM)

There are few franchises as long lasting — or as heavy-hitting — as the Rocky saga. Launching in 1976 with the Best Picture-winning Rocky, written by and starring Sylvester Stallone, the boxing series is entering its fifth decade with its ninth film: Creed III.

Landing in cinemas on 3 March, the third Creed film is the first instalment of the series to not feature Stallone, so let's take a look back at the story so far.

Rocky | 1976

Rocky Sylvester Stallone punching meat in training in a scene from the classic 1976 movie. (Photo by Screen Archives/Getty Images)
Rocky Sylvester Stallone punching meat in training in a scene from the classic 1976 movie. (Photo by Screen Archives/Getty Images)

Rocky (1976) follows down-on-his-luck amateur boxer and loan shark enforcer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). When the heavyweight world champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) goes to Philadelphia looking for a local boxer to challenge him for the title he sets his sights on Rocky, who begins training with gruff local trainer Mickey Goldmilll (Burgess Meredith).

Read more: Sylvester Stallone hits out at 'parasite' Rocky producer

At the same time he begins dating shy pet-shop worker Adrian Pennino (Talia Shire), who lives with her brother and Rocky’s friend Paulie (Burt Young). Rocky takes on Apollo in the ring and loses by a split decision, but in doing so earns not only Apollo’s respect and Adrian’s love but the proof that he could go the distance.

Rocky II | 1979

USA. Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers  in a scene from (C)United Artists  film: Rocky II (1979). Plot: Rocky struggles in family life after his bout with Apollo Creed, while the embarrassed champ insistently goads him to accept a challenge for a rematch.  Ref:  LMK110-J7059-230421 Supplied by LMKMEDIA. Editorial Only. Landmark Media is not the copyright owner of these Film or TV stills but provides a service only for recognised Media outlets. pictures@lmkmedia.com
Carl Weathers and Sylvester Stallone in a scene from United Artists film Rocky II (1979). (Alamy)

Immediately following the events of the first film Rocky II (1979) sees Apollo challenge Rocky to a rematch to prove his distance was a fluke. Instead Rocky opts to retire from professional boxing, marry Adrian and father a child.

Still, as a fighter by trade no other job is the right fit for Rocky and so he agrees to the rematch. Adrian gives birth to their son Robert “Rocky” Balboa Jr and eventually agrees to let Rocky take the match. Rocky almost loses the fight but, willing himself to keep going, he wins by technical knock-out as Adrian watches him triumphantly proclaim he 'did it'.

Rocky III | 1982

USA. Mr. T and Sylvester Stallone  in a scene from (C) MGM/UA film: Rocky III (1982). Plot: After winning the ultimate title and being the world champion, Rocky falls into a hole and finds himself picked up by a former enemy.   Ref: LMK110-J7064-290421 Supplied by LMKMEDIA. Editorial Only. Landmark Media is not the copyright owner of these Film or TV stills but provides a service only for recognised Media outlets. pictures@lmkmedia.com
Sylvester Stallone's Rocky faces off with Mr T's Clubber Lang in Rocky III. (Alamy)

Five years later, Rocky III (1982) sees Rocky defending his title ten times, bringing his family from poverty to wealth. At the same time, rising boxer Clubber Lang (Mr. T) challenges Rocky to a fight, to the concern of his trainer Mickey.

Mickey doubts Rocky’s ability against a younger, hungrier fighter, made worse when a pre-fight altercation causes Mickey to suffer a fatal heart attack. His death drives Rocky to fight with aggression, not skill and he loses his title.

Read more: How Rocky mirrored the life of Sylvester Stallone

Witnessing the fight Apollo decides to retrain Rocky, completely changing his style to catch Lang off guard. In a rematch Rocky defends his title by taunting Lang, and taking him down with a knock-out blow. Afterwards Rocky and Apollo celebrate with a sparring match that freeze frames in iconic fashion.

Rocky IV | 1985

Sylvester Stallone punches Dolph Lundgren in a scene from the film 'Rocky IV', 1985. (Photo by United Artists/Getty Images)
Sylvester Stallone punches Dolph Lundgren in a scene from the film 'Rocky IV', 1985. (United Artists/Getty Images)

Fast forward to Rocky IV (1985), Soviet powerhouse Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) arrives in the US looking to make a name for himself. Curious Apollo agrees to an exhibition match, unaware that Drago fights to kill. Coldly proclaiming “if he dies, he dies”, Drago beats Apollo into submission and Rocky plans to throw in the towel for Apollo but Apollo disagrees. Drago subsequently beats Apollo to death.

Livid with Drago’s indifference, Rocky decides to go to Russia to challenge Drago to an unsanctioned 15-round fight with only Paulie and Apollo’s trainer Duke (Tony Burton) with him. Eventually he’s joined by an apprehensive Adrian, and on Christmas Day takes on Drago.

Despite only training with grit, he goes up against Drago who has been pumped with steroids. After a devastating round of blows Rocky finally gains the upper hand and knocks out Drago, avenging Apollo’s death. He then gives a strange speech which sort of calls for the end of the USSR.

Rocky V | 1990

September 1, 2013 - FILE - TOMMY MORRISON, who displayed his hard-hitting boxing style as a protege of Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa in the 1990 movie 'Rocky V' and defeated G. Foreman to capture a heavyweight boxing championship, but was banned from the ring in 1996 when he tested positive for H.I.V., died Sunday in Omaha. He was 44. Morrison denied in his later years that he ever had H.I.V. His wife, Trisha, recently said that he had Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological disorder. Morrison won 48 fights (42 by knockout or technical knockout), lost three and fought one draw. He was arre
Sylvester Stallone with Tommy Robinson in Rocky V. (Alamy)

In the aftermath of the fight, Rocky V (1990) sees Rocky and his family return to the US. The Balboas discover that Paulie gave their power of attorney to Rocky’s accountant who has squandered their wealth and left them with nothing.

Rocky begins suffering from complications due to excessive blunt force trauma and is forced to retire from boxing and move back to Philadelphia where he begins operating Mickey’s old gym. He takes an interest in a young boxer Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison) putting a strain on his relationship with his son Robert (Sage Stallone). When success comes for Gunn he disrespects Rocky and teams up with a high profile boxing promoter who tells him he can only secure his legacy by fighting Rocky.

Refusing the fight, Rocky is spurred to take on Tommy in a street fight after Tommy punches Paulie. Risking his health Rocky takes on Tommy in the streets and wins. Afterwards he takes Robert to see his statue and they reconcile.

Rocky Balboa | 2006

Rocky Balboa (also known as Rocky VI) is the sixth installment in the Rocky franchise, written, directed by, and starring Sylvester Stallone   This photograph is for editorial use only and is the copyright of the film company and/or the photographer assigned by the film or production company and can only be reproduced by publications in conjunction with the promotion of the above Film. A Mandatory Credit to the film company is required. The Photographer should also be credited when known.
Sylvester Stallone and Milo Ventimiglia in 2006's Rocky Balboa. (Alamy)

After Sixteen years we find Rocky in Rocky Balboa (2006) running a restaurant called Adrian’s, still reeling from Adrian’s death a few years prior, Rocky continues to try to mend a strained relationship with son Robert (Milo Ventimiglia) who resents living in his father’s shadow.

After a boxing show compares Rocky in his prime to current champion Mason Dixon (Antonio Tarver), an exhibition match is set up. Rocky uses this to regain a relationship with his son, and to drag Paulie out of a depression caused by being laid off. Together they go back to training and Rocky is able to take on Mason in the ring.

Read more: Stallone says he had 'zero ownership' of Rocky

Rocky loses by split decision, but doesn’t mind, instead pleased that he was able to go the distance one last time.

Creed | 2016

Sylvester Stallone and Michael B Jordan in Creed. (MGM)
Sylvester Stallone and Michael B Jordan in Creed. (MGM)

Creed (2016) informs us that Apollo fathered an illegitimate child born after his death. This son, Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) was adopted by Apollo’s widow Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) following his mother’s death.

Heading to Philadelphia, Adonis sets about making a name for himself fearing he’ll only ever be seen as a false Creed. He convinces Rocky to become his trainer and embarks on a relationship with rising singer Bianca (Tessa Thompson). He’s challenged to a title fight against Rocky Conlon (Tony Bellew) which is complicated when Rocky is diagnosed with cancer.

Adonis and Rocky work together, with Rocky going into remission and Adonis taking on Conlon. He loses by split decision, but proves himself a worthy successor to his father’s legacy.

Creed II | 2018

Sylvester Stallone and Michael B Jordan in Creed II. (MGM)
Sylvester Stallone and Michael B Jordan in Creed II. (MGM)

After years as a champion Creed II (2018) sees Adonis face a challenge to not just his title but his legacy as Ivan Drago’s son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) who has grown up in disgrace with his father comes into the picture.

Adonis loses horrifically in their first fight, putting a strain on his relationship with both Rocky who is against him fighting Drago, and Bianca who is pregnant with his daughter Amara. Amara’s birth comes with complications due to Bianca’s hereditary hearing loss, but upon reconciliation with Rocky, Adonis goes into training and takes on Drago once more.

Read more: How Creed II connects to Rocky IV

This time beating him when Ivan throws in the towel to save his son. Victorious, Adonis takes his newborn daughter to his father’s grave. While Rocky reconciles with Robert and meets his own grandson Logan.

Creed III | 2022

Michael B. Jordan stars as Adonis Creed and Jonathan Majors as Damian Anderson in Creed III. (Warner Bros./MGM)
Michael B. Jordan stars as Adonis Creed and Jonathan Majors as Damian Anderson in Creed III. (Warner Bros./MGM)

Michael B Jordan returns as Adonis for a third time in Creed III, and it'll also mark the Black Panther star's directorial debut. The film sees Adonis trying to balance his career and family, with Bianca and his daughter by his side, but an old friend threatens to unsettle things when he is released from a long prison sentence.

Damien Anderson (Jonathan Majors) has a score to settle with Adonis and wants to take his belt from the man who he feels owes him a lot.

Addressing his absence from the film, Stallone said: “What it was is Michael is telling a story, highly personal, but there’s no room for me. In other words, it’s about his [character Adonis Creed’s] family, about his dilemma, and about his journey that has nothing to do with boxing.”

“I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s a whole different point of view than Rocky’s point of view.”

Creed III is in cinemas and IMAX from 3 March, 2023. Watch a trailer below.