By Barry Lindenman
It’s the classic: the boxing movie by which all other boxing movies are measured against. Surprisingly, after all the times I’ve watched “ROCKY”, albeit as a fan, I’ve never watched the movie and scored the rounds, as a boxing judge. Until now. Let me explain.
By now, we all know that in the very first “ROCKY” movie, the hero of our story, Rocky Balboa, goes the distance against the champion Apollo Creed. That’s the whole premise of the movie ! Back then, in both the fictitous and real world of boxing, world title fights went 15 rounds. The Academy Award winning movie certainly doesn’t depict all 15 rounds in this epic film. If it did, it would have been more of a documentary than the heart warming, feel good drama that we’ve come to love. However, in scrutinizing the final scene of the film, I was able to identify 7 separate rounds in which there was enough boxing activity and other pertinent information that would enable a qualified boxing judge to actually score the round. Those rounds are: 1, 2, 7, 8, 13, 14 and the climactic 15th and final round of the fight. My goal then was to watch the dramatic final fight scene of the film and actually score the rounds that are shown in terms of the action and events that the film depicts.
Round 1: Apollo Creed comes out confident and strong, repeatedly peppering Balboa with his “Ali-like” jab. Balboa begins the fight looking amateurish and missing wildly. After Creed misses with a right cross, Balboa proceeds to knock down the champ with a devastating left uppercut. (10-8 Balboa at this point)
Creed comes back strong after the knockdown, eventually forcing Balboa into the corner where he continues to nail Balboa. Balboa begins to land some body shots on the champ after escaping from the corner. Following a clinch, Creed continues to sting Balboa with his jab, the effects of the early knockdown clearly gone, and eventually staggers Balboa with a hard right hand into the ropes as the round ends. Now although it appears that Balboa went down from this punch, the referee never signals a knockdown and never starts a count. Therefore, as a judge, I can’t score it as a knockdown for Creed. He did however, in my opinion, comeback enough to close the gap and make it a 10-9 round for Balboa, by virtue of his knockdown of Creed.
Round 2: In my opinion, this was the hardest round of the fight to score. Creed clearly wins the early part of the round with his piston-like jabs and straight right hands (enough to make Paulie slump in his seat and partially cover his face with his hat ! ). Although he repeatedly staggers Balboa, he never really seems to hurt the Italian Stallion. Following the barrage from Creed, they emerge from a clinch when Balboa ultimately takes control of the round with a right hand followed by a left to the body and then a huge left to the head of Creed which forces the champ into the ropes where Balboa continues to pummel Creed to the body and head. As the round ends (and the music starts), it’s clear to me that Balboa’s blows were the more effective punches and did more damage in round 2 than did Creed’s. Round 2 also goes to Balboa, 10 – 9.
Round 7: I must admit that I was surprised that I actually had Rocky winning the first two rounds of the fight. Watching the movie as a fan and seeing him being seemingly outclassed by the more stylish Creed, I had always assumed that Rocky started off the fight slowly, only to come on strong at the end. But after 2 rounds, I actually have Balboa winning the fight 20-18. The next few rounds are skipped over in the movie as indicated by the famous “Statue of Liberty” ring card girls. When the action resumes in round 7, we see Creed clearly winning the round with jabs and right crosses but Balboa never goes down. 10 – 9 for Creed as we next see Rocky being tended to in his corner, signifying the end of another round.
Round 8: Although there is only a brief amount of action depicted, the next round is almost a mirror image of the previous round as the film shows Creed clearly dominating Balboa. But once again, Balboa doesn’t go down. 10 – 9 for Creed.
Round 13: The action then skips all the way to round 13 (thanks again to the lovely silver attired and patriotic ring card girls). Despite a gallant effort from Balboa, Creed is clearly winning the round as his jab continually forces Balboa against the ropes and his right hand forces Balboa to clinch with the champ. Again, 10 – 9 for Creed.
Round 14: This is Creed’s best round of the fight and surprisingly, the first (and only) time he actually scores an official knockdown of Rocky, courtesy of a devastating right uppercut towards the end of the round. To the astonishment of Creed and against the better wishes of his corner, Rocky gets up from the devastating knockdown and actually has enough strength and will to land four consecutive left hooks to the body that stops Creed in his tracks as the bell ends the round. Nevertheless, it’s still Creed’s round by virtue of the knockdown, 10 – 8.
Round 15: Both fighters emerge for the final round hurt, totally spent and extremely cautious of each other’s power. Creed scores first with a left jab followed by a tremendous uppercut but Balboa’s still standing, seemingly unhurt by what remaining power the champ has left. With Creed protecting his body as best he can, Balboa unleashes a tremendous body attack against the champ that ultimately forces him helpless against the ropes. Rocky then punctuates the round and the fight with two devastating punches (first a right and then a left) as the final bell tolls. If the round had gone on for another 10 seconds, either Creed would have been knocked out or real life referee Lou Fillipo would have certainly stopped the fight. Even though there were no knockdowns in this round, because of the way Balboa overwhelmingly dominated Creed, I scored it 10 – 8 for Balboa.
Therefore, my final scorecard (for the action depicted in the rounds actually shown) is as follows:
Round: | 1 | 2 | 7 | 8 | 13 | 14 | 15 | Total
Balboa 10 10 9 9 9 8 10 65
Creed 9 9 10 10 10 10 8 66
As much as the “fan” part of me wanted to see Rocky Balboa actually win the title against the brash Apollo Creed, the “judge” side of me thinks that the filmmakers actually got it right when at the end of the film, they announce the decision: Creed retains the heavyweight title with a close, split decision victory. Then again, maybe Rocky did win. He finally got the respect that had always escaped him; he got the girl (“Yo Adrian”) and finally, he got the opportunity to make five additional “ROCKY” sequels.
Barry Lindenman can be reached at [email protected]