Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa became an absolute icon. The first film is widely considered the best boxing movie ever, and afterward, it blossomed into a big franchise spanning over 46 years. From Rocky’s beginnings in the underground boxing rings to his rise to stardom, there were numerous iconic fights – be it in the ring or out in the streets.
Without further ado, here’s a complete list of every fight in the Rocky movie franchise, ranked from worst to best, including the fights from the two Creed movies where Donnie Creed is fighting, and Rocky serves as his trainer and father-figure. I am sorry if I get a bit biased, but I’ll admit that I clearly have my favorites.
17. Rocky Vs. Mason Dixon – Rocky Balboa (2006)
Quite honestly, the entire Rocky Balboa movie (aka Rocky VI) was a big dislike for me. Sly looked like an old bodybuilder that withered down after he stopped pumping steroids, and the premise of this particular fight was just ridiculous.
Adrian died, and Rocky was alone, still feeling that “beast” inside him. He comes out of retirement at 60 – yes, 60 years old – and fights the cocky world champion, Mason Dixon, who’s an epitome of the corrupt business that became boxing. Dixon handpicks his opponents instead of fighting the best of the best, and Rocky is here to put him in his place.
Their fight was very well choreographed but painful to watch. Grandpa Rocky almost wins but eventually loses via split decision. We’ve seen some surreal moments in the Rocky franchise, but a 60-year-old guy that barely trained for decades almost beating the world heavyweight champ? It was too much for me.
16. Rocky Vs. Spider Rico – Rocky (1976)
The fight that started the franchise – this was the first fight we’ve ever seen Rocky Balboa in. It was in a run-down, underground Philly ring, and it was more of a street fight than an actual boxing match. They were grabbing, tossing, and carrying each other across the ring.
I mean, Rocky literally crouched down and pummeled Spider Rico on the floor to end the fight. There wasn’t much boxing skill on display here, but we’ve seen what the Italian Stallion is ready to do and what he’s capable of.
15. Adonis Johnson Vs. Title – Creed (2015)
Adonis Creed was still going by his biological mother’s last name, Johnson. He was a student that used the weekends to go down to Tijuana, Mexico, and fight in the boxing ring. The first fight we see him in was against an unnamed guy, only known as Title. This is where Donnie shows his power – and that Creed-cockiness – for the first time.
He battered his opponent with a few punches, and before the count was even done, Adonis had already taken off the straps from his gloves, knowing there was no chance the guy was getting back up after that beating. Also, it was a cool homage to the Rocky Vs. Spider Rico fight, as the setting was quite similar, showing the two had very similar beginnings.
14. Rocky Vs. Thunderlips – Rocky III (1982)
This was probably the funniest fight in the entire franchise. So, Rocky is the champ now and became a big star, destroying opponents left and right, doing endorsement deals, commercials, yadda, yadda. So, inspired by the Muhammad Ali – Antonio Inoki boxer-wrestler fight, Rocky took an exhibition fight against Thunderlips, a pro-wrestler played by none other than Hulk Hogan.
Hogan was right at the top of his popularity at the moment, and the fight – much like the rest of Rocky III – was cartoonish and a bit ridiculous. Rocky got into it lightly, but Thunderlips took the fight seriously and started breaking Balboa like a ragdoll. If Rocky took such a beating in real life, he’d end up in a wheelchair.
Instead, after Thundelips tosses him out of the ring, Rocky has Paulie help him take his gloves off, gets back into the ring, and starts pummeling Thunderlips like crazy, eventually tossing him out of the ring as well. The find ends in a draw and a whole lot of laughs from 8-year-old me watching the movie for the first time.
13. Rocky Vs. Tommy Gunn – Rocky V (1990)
I feel like the Rocky saga should’ve ended with Rocky IV because Rocky V and Rocky Balboa (Rocky VI) were just too much. Here, we have a retired Rocky, training a thug named Tommy Gunn, and he’s like a son to Rocky. That is until he betrays him for more money and leaves him out dry.
However, nobody acknowledges Tommy as the true champ, calling him Rocky’s puppet, so he picks a fight with Balboa, who keeps refusing it. It’s not until Gunn punches Paulie in the mouth in a bar that Rocky decides to settle it out in the streets.
The street fight is directed nicely but ridiculous at moments, especially when Rocky punches Tommy in the gut repeatedly, and Gunn bounces in the air with every punch. Rocky almost loses but remembers Mickey’s words – I didn’t hear the bell – and then smacks the kid into oblivion. One could argue that Rocky Vs. Spider Rico was a better street fight than this.
12. Adonis Johnson-Creed Vs. Leo Sporino – Creed (2015)
This fight was the turning point of Adonis Johnson’s career and life. He fought Leo The Lion Sporino and beat him to a pulp. However, after the fight, Leo’s father leaked the info that Adonis was actually Apollo Creed’s bastard child. That’s irrelevant right now, though. What’s relevant is the spectacularly directed fight between Donnie and Leo.
Sporino was portrayed by a professional boxer, Gabriel Rosado, so the exchanges looked incredibly legitimate, but the best part about the fight was that it was all shot in a single take. Honestly, I wish all the fights were directed in the same manner, but then it would take away the magic of this particular scene.
11. Adonis Creed Vs. Danny Wheeler – Creed II (2018)
After the events of the first movie and the split decision loss to Ricky Conlan (more on that fight later), Donnie continued his boxing career, winning six fights via KO in the next three years, moving up from light heavyweight to cruiserweight, all the way to the heavyweight division.
There, he got the opportunity to fight the champ, Danny Wheeler – the same guy who had his jaw broken by Ricky Conlan at the weigh-ins for their match and the same guy that embarrassed Donnie in a sparring match in the first Creed movie.
The title fight between Creed and Wheeler was cool – well directed and edited, but nothing special. Still, it made Adonis the heavyweight champ after avenging his sparring-match loss with a 4th-round TKO, making it an incredibly important fight in the context of the franchise. Oh, and he won his Mustang back, too.
10. Rocky Vs. Clubber Lang 1st Fight – Rocky III (1982)
I pity the fool who doesn’t take Mr. T seriously! This was the fight that shaped Rocky Balboa into the person he was for the rest of his life. Mr. T’s character, Clubber Lang, was nothing but pure brute force. Rocky was the champ, slicing through his opponents like butter until Lang came into the picture. Of course, Balboa thought he was invincible.
His rage was only amplified when Clubber pushed Rocky’s trainer Mick, resulting in the old man staying in the locker room. Rocky came out swinging, but Lang ate all the shots and then returned with his brute force to pummel an unprepared, coachless Rocky, knocking him out cold for the first time in Balboa’s career.
To make matters worse, Mick died after Rocky returned to the locker room. The fight itself was quite cartoonish, with some cool first-person shots, but overall, it felt unreal, even for a movie.
9. Rocky Vs. Adrian – Rocky III (1982)
Yes, you read that right. Not every fight in Rocky’s life happened inside the ring or even being an actual, physical fight. One of the most significant fights in th entire Rocky franchise happened between Rocky and his wife, Adrian, between the first and second fights against Clubber Lang.
Rocky is reluctant to train despite Apollo Creed helping him change his style, and Adrian sees something’s wrong. When the fight breaks out, Rocky admits to her that, for the first time in his life, he’s afraid to step into the ring again because he knows he has so much to lose, and Mickey’s death opened his eyes.
That’s when Adrian reassures him, and Rocky goes on to reclaim his title. The fight with Adrian was just as important as any victory he got inside the ring.
8. Adonis Creed Vs. Ricky Conlan – Creed (2015)
Just like Rocky had his breakthrough fight with Apollo Creed, Apollo’s son and Rocky’s protege, Adonis, had one with Ricky Conlan, the light-heavyweight champion of the world.
Conlan’s fight against Danny Wheeler fell, though, because Ricky broke Danny’s jaw at their weigh-ins. Meanwhile, Ricky was going to jail right after and didn’t want to go out without one last big fight. Then he heard about Donnie being a Creed and decided to challenge him to step in and replace Wheeler, which Donnie agreed to do.
Conlan was portrayed by former world champ Tony Bellew, and despite his horrible acting, the fight was just epic – quick, well-directed, and immersive. In the end, Conlan won via split decision. However, just like Apollo won the first fight against Rocky with a split decision, he didn’t really win.
As the announcer said after the Creed-Conlan bout: “Conlan might’ve won the fight, but Creed won the night.”
7. Adonis Creed Vs. Viktor Drago 1st Fight – Creed II (2018)
Donnie became the heavyweight champ, but the msot serious challenger was just about to arrive. It was Viktor Drago, the son of Ivan Drago – the guy who killed Donnie’s father, Apollo, in an exhibition bout. Creed takes the fight against Viktor and gets absolutely pummelled.
However, despite the fact that Viktor destroyed him, Adonis wins via disqualification, as Viktor punched Creed while he was already down. Still, it left a sour taste in Donnie’s mouth, and revenge was destined to happen. The situation was quite similar to Rocky’s first fight – and loss- against Clubber Lang.
6. Apollo Creed Vs. Ivan Drago – Rocky IV (1985)
This was the most gut-wrenching, heartbreaking fight in the entire franchise. Apollo Creed decides to come out of retirement to fight a Soviet machine, Ivan Drago, whose punches literally break the power-measuring machines. Creed comes in cockily, as he usually did, thinking they’re into a light exhibition match, here to put on a show.
Drago takes it way too seriously, however, and beats Apollo so bad that Rocky wants to throw in the towel. In between rounds, Apollo tells Rocky not to do it, no matter what, and it results in Drago literally killing him in the next round. Balboa never forgave himself for listening to Apollo and not forfeiting the match when there was still time to save his best friend.
I hated Dolph Lundgren for so long after this movie.
5. Adonis Creed Vs. Viktor Drago 2nd Fight – Creed II (2018)
After the first fight, Donnie was still the champion but didn’t feel like the champion because of the way the fight ended. In the second fight, though, he came much more prepared, training to take those high-impact punches that Viktor was so well-known for.
In the second fight, Viktor was actually winning on the scorecards. However, due to his sheer power, Drago never went further than the fourth round, so by round ten, he was so exhausted he couldn’t even defend himself. Adonis took the chance and kept coming at Viktor, beating him heavily.
Then, an unforgettable moment happened. Viktor’s father, Ivan Drago – the guy who killed Donnie’s dad, Apollo – did what Rocky couldn’t do. He threw in the towel and forfeited the fight to save his son, leaving Adonis as the champion once again.
It was a great conclusion to the movie and the franchise – at least so far, as Creed III is set to come out in March 2023.
4. Rocky Vs. Clubber Lang 2nd Fight – Rocky III (1982)
The number of punches landed in this fight would be enough to give 30 professional boxers permanent brain damage, but hey, it’s a movie. And it was one of the most entertaining fights in the entire franchise. Rocky got his head together after the first loss, trained like hell, changed his style, and ensured he didn’t underestimate Lang this time.
The fight almost went the distance when all of a sudden, Rocky ignored tactics from his corner and decided to let Clubber club him silly. Instead of falling for such sick punches, Rocky remained standing while Lang wore himself out completely, resulting in Balboa eventually knocking him out cold.
3. Rocky Vs. Ivan Drago – Rocky IV (1985)
After Drago killed Apollo, Rocky was devastated, feeling guilty for listening to Creed and not throwing in the towel to save his friend. However, he was determined to avenge Apollo, even making an unprecedented move of going to Russia to fight Ivan.
He trained with Creed’s former coach, Duke, in a rural barn, while Drago trained with the top-notch high-tech equipment – and steroids. The fight was probably the best-directed fight in the franchise, with crazy moments that would immediately lead to disqualification in real life, but hey – it’s a movie.
After Drago and Balboa gave each other permanent brain damage, Rocky was the first guy to knock Drago down – and eventually knock him out. It was an epic conclusion of a movie that little me watched twice a day for about a year. Yup, Rocky IV was by far my favorite movie of the franchise.
2. Rocky Vs. Apollo Creed 1st Fight – Rocky (1976)
The fight that started it all. A bum, semi-amateur boxer from Philly’s down skirts got an ultimate, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fight the heavyweight champ, Apollo Creed. Creed was his usual cocky self – and rightfully so, as nobody came close to beating him for so long.
He had nothing to prove, whereas Rocky wanted to show that he’s not just some punk who’ll never do anything with his life. Balboa trained by punching meat carcasses in a freezer, while Creed took pics and enjoyed the publicity of giving some nobody a chance, expecting to take care of business within a round or two.
The fight came, and it was epic. Rocky stood his ground and went the distance. Surely, he lost in the end via split decision, but he was everyone’s winner. Not even Apollo felt victorious, which is why they ran it back for a second time in Rocky II – and delivered the best Rocky fight ever.
1. Rocky Vs. Apollo Creed 2nd Fight – Rocky II (1979)
Finally, the best Rocky fight ever – the rematch between Apollo and the Italian Stallion. Sylvester Stallone took over as the director for the second movie, and boy did this fight deliver. Don’t get me wrong; the punches look semi-real until you see how Stallone cocks his head back, breaking the illusion of a real fight.
Also, I always hate when boxing movies always have those pauses in the match, where one fighter has the other against the ropes, punching him like crazy, and then they just stop so that the fight can go on.
Even with all that, the fight was epic. It went back and forth throughout the rounds until the very end. Rocky, a southpaw (left-handed), fought in an orthodox stance (right-handed), and then switched in that final moment that sent both himself and Creed down to the ground.
Rocky managed to get up a second before the ten-count from the referee, while Apollo remained on the floor, and Rocky Balboa was the world heavyweight champion. Loved the fight, the movie, and the epic ending – it’s not a coincidence that this particular fight is considered the best in the franchise.