I need to be clear about something before I proceed. We’re here because we talking about greatness, right? We’re here talking about the template for Black excellence, right? We’re here to talk about mutha fuckas that keep the highlight reel goin’, right? Then that must mean we all here to talk about The Count of Monte Fisto, The Master of Disaster, the man known as Apollo Creed.
Apollo is the guy that God uses as a sparing partner cause his arms aren’t too short to box with ’em. Apollo is a huge nemesis-turned-rival-turned-friend in the Rocky universe. We saw the kind of man Apollo was when he lived and who he was when he died and, with the release of Creed (a Rocky series spin-off) focused on his son Adonis Johnson-Creed, we finally get to see Apollo’s shadow on the boxing world after his death (Creed spoilers ahead). Apollo Creed is one of the most iconic fictional characters in the game. Period. It’s only right we do him justice now on why ya mans and dem is Top 5 Dead or Alive.
Say what I feel, it ain’t my fault they feel what I say”
Apollo Creed is a true showman. Where Rocky’s charm comes from his simple, humble, and very patient nature, when it comes to Creed, his charm stems from his confidence, ambition, and razor-sharp wit. Creed knows how to entertain in and outside of the ring, and he looks incredible while he does it, but you also gotta acknowledge how smart and business savvy he was. Apollo knew Rocky would be the perfect candidate for their first fight because America loves an underdog story, there’s a “Great White Hope” aspect to it, and it would be an entertaining fight. Folks will shell out to see this. He also didn’t back down from the racial aspect of what was happening with the fight at all.
A reporter asked Creed if it was a coincidence that he was fighting a white man on the most celebrated day in our country’s history — to which Apollo replied, “I don’t know about that. Is it a coincidence that he’s fighting a Black man on the most celebrated day in our country’s history?” OooooOOOooOOh! The champ was always ready.
Apollo was also out on television telling kids to study and gain knowledge, that being an athlete didn’t have to be their only option towards having a good life.
The gawd wasn’t out here glorifying that championship life, he was trying to do right for the children. Now a good contrast to this is when Apollo wanted that rematch with Balboa because he needed to go the distance with him again to prove to everyone that he could. Apollo knew that a smear campaign against Balboa would make him the villain in this rematch, but he didn’t care. He had to go back to that impasse with Rocky one mo’ gain by any means necessary.
What’s funny is how Apollo and Rocky become friends with their vastly different personalities. It’s what makes this rivalry/friendship so fun to watch. Especially when it comes to little cultural differences or idioms between them. That these two guys on opposite ends of many spectrums exist on this common ground they’ve built is… it’s fucking heartwarming to see, okay? There. I said it.
Rocky: How does it feel? OK?
Apollo: Feels great. I feel like I could eat nails.
Rocky: I never tried them snails.
Apollo: What are you talkin’ about?
Rocky: Snails. I never had ’em. I see ’em in
the garden, but I never want to eat ’em.
Apollo’s character is obviously an homage to Muhammad Ali (while Rocky has more of Joe Fraizer’s quiet demeanor), as we see him
be witty TALK THAT SHIT at press conferences with ease, to give the people what they want to see. Now does he take it too far, does he come down too hard? Ehhh maybe, but that’s more motivation to see the fight as a fan and for the opponent to bring their best. I mean, Apollo was able to get under the stoic Russian Ivan Drago’s skin, even. His trash talk game was too superior but it was mostly for the fans and the spectacle of the fight. What better proof than when he’s asking Rocky how he did post-conference. Apollo been out the game for 5 years but he wants to make sure he can still talk that talk better than the rest of ’em (or any WWF Superstar).
Rocky: A lil’ loud for my taste.
wannabe hustlers, tough until they standin’ in front of me duckin'”
As mentioned, Apollo Creed is (assumed to be) molded after Muhammad “I’m feelin’ like the mutha fuckin’ greatest” Ali. Which means, his stunt game? Spectacular. His bravado gotta be weighed in kilos, but his fisticuff game? I said his hand to hand, I’m-a-baaaaaaaaad-man game? Ridiculous. Apollo’s record is cleaner than Carlton Banks bumpin’ Barry Manilow on Sunset Boulevard. I’m talking undefeated. I’m talking no white out on the board ’cause there’s no need for corrections. It was smooth sailing till that Balboa perfect storm. But that boy Creed? The man was untouchable, literally. Apollo had Ali’s unorthodox hand positioning but bobbed and weaved classically to avoid hits while pissing off his opponents. His outboxing was glamorous.
We saw more of Creed getting buck and wild fighting with Rocky. In the rematch he switched from outboxing to gettin in the fuckin’ muck. That man Creed didn’t give a fuck when he finally had a worthy challenge, man. Creed’s defense was his speed, but that unorthodox way of holding his hands left him open to take a lot of damage (which Rocky exploited). Rocky represented the opponent finally worthy of his final form. He took Rocky lightly the first time around, but that second time?
Sun came out the corner lookin’ at Balboa like his ass was a plate of soul food ’cause he was hungry to bust that buffet all night. YOU THINK I’M LYIN’? THINK I’M PUTTIN 100 ON TEN? LOOK AT THE FOOTAGE! DON’T LOOK AT ME, I SAID LOOK AT THE FOOTAGE! LOOK AT YA MANS APOLLO CREED AND DEM GETTIN IT’ JUST… *BONG* *BONGBONGBONG* *BONG*! ARE YOU LOOKING AT THE FLICK OF DA WRISTS?! COME ON!
I left a trail *boxer*, follow it And when it’s gone, make a new one, don’t remodel shit”
Oh, I’m ’bout to talk my shit right here. Oh, I’m ’bout to go off. *sips water from Wonder Woman cup* OooOOoOh, this section gon’ get this work. Let me tell you how Apollo Creed isn’t just the best in the ring to do it, but he the best to coach it as well. When Rocky lost his trainer, his title to Clubber Lang, and his spirit, mutha fuckin’ Apollo Creed found him on some wandering samurai shit. Rocky had already proven himself to Creed, and for Apollo to see the man who defeated him down and out like this? He couldn’t have that. Apollo took it upon himself to get Rocky’s mind right, fists right, READY FOR WAR.
So what did he do? He took him back to the fucking gutta’. He took him back to the big uneasy south side LA where it all started for Apollo. Rocky needed to get that hunger back, because he got too comfortable at the top just like Apollo did. Now was time for a rude awakening. Now Micky was a great trainer, he trained Rocky to his strengths and to do damage. What Apollo a.k.a. Rick Fucking Flair was going to do with the help of his man Duke Evers a.k.a. Arn Fucking Anderson was give him finesse (WHAT). Give this mutha fucka strength in the muscles he ain’t even know he had (TELL’EM), in addition to helping him remember he had to be the same beast and a different animal. They had to bring Stallion 2.0 out. Fuck the Kobe system man, that Apollo Creed system was something fucking savage!
Apollo put Rocky through the fucking fire, man. Running, sprints, sparring. Rocky went through hell and saw it was overrated when it came time to train with Apollo ’cause this was a whole ‘nother world, environment, and culture than what he was used to. Apollo was as patient as he could be coaching Rocky, but he GAVE ROCKY THAT FUCKING BUSINESS with the famous words when Rocky was nonchalantly frustrated talking about getting the training right tomorrow. He gave him the words to live and fucking die by. Dat bad man Creed said,
“Tomorrow? What the fuck is tomorrow? Muh fucka is that a day spa? They got endless mimosas at tomorrow? Is gratuity already included in the bill over at tomorrow? Every mutha fucka at the table orders one meal and everyone shares it with each other assembly-line style at tomorrow? DAMN IT ROCK, THERE IS NO TOMORROW! THERE IS NO TOMORROW… (YOU MUTHA FUCKA’S MUST NOT HEAR ME SO LEMME SAY IT ONE MORE FUCKING TIME SO YOU KNOW WE’RE ONLY TALKING THE HARD SHIT RIGHT NOW)–
–THERE IS NO TOMORROW!
Once Adrian helped Rocky break through the fact that he was actually afraid, he was finally able to get down to business and realize the gift that Apollo was giving him with this training. This was the original Dr. Dre taking on Eminem right here, which is to say that this is a great reverse Blindside story with the history between these two rivals. It didn’t feel like Apollo was training Rocky to be on some white savior shit, he was getting Rocky back to the person he was and making him better as a fighter because (Apollo didn’t say it aloud) he already proved his character to Apollo in their fights. Also, Apollo fucking believed in Rocky and this was one of the few times we saw him caring for this guy who began as his rival.
Apollo blessed him with the trunks, man… just to show him how much faith he had in him. Now Apollo, as we know, did want a favor for all this training he gave Rocky, which was a third match in private just between the two of them (more on that later). Before Rocky went for the rope-a-dope technique, the most finesse and technical skill he displayed was in his fight with Clubber Lang as Rocky was bobbin’, weavin’, and slippin’ the jab while tellin’ homes, “YOU AIN’T SO BAD! YOU AIN’T SO BAAAD!” Also let’s note that Rocky never talked that trash in the ring before. Ever! He always did a nonchalant response when provoked, but his time in south side LA, bein’ on that Apollo system, plus in them shorts? Sheeeeit, that was the culmination that brought the fucking BARS out of the Italian Stallion this time around ’cause homie was talkin’ that shit somethin’ fierce.
Listen, Apollo is a fucking smart, foxy guy, man. He got Rocky back in perfect shape to face the obstacle of Clubber Lang, while at the same time getting Rocky back in his prime and in perfect shape so he himself could get one more chance at ’em. Apollo wanted Rocky at his best to face ’em again. That’s some great coach shit, friend shit, and rival shit all at the damn time.
It’s not recklessness, specialist on some introspective shit.”
4) “Self-destructive I love it anything that abuses me amuses me
I just hope the whole world excuses me.”
4) “Mmmmmmnnn-Now this will be a beautiful death
I’m jumping out the window, I’m letting everything go”
Apollo Creed was born in the wrong era, man. Plain and simple, the homie was a fucking gladiator. God granted this man the heavy burden of the gift of knocking cats the fuck out. Apollo was always on the battlefield. He always referred to Rocky as Stallion not just as the nickname but as his fucking comrade in arms. Fading into obscurity wasn’t for the god, yo. Now time is trying to tell this gladiator, trying to tell this warrior that his time is done? Nah man, Rocky tried to get Creed to see that maybe it was time to change too and Creed told ’em that real.
Now, when we discuss Apollo Creed’s death in his match against Ivan Drago of course there’s the element of the Cold War propaganda and the simple revenge-driven plot of the movie. Obviously. But if we sideline that and just look at how Apollo went out, it’s such a beautifully complex choice. I say choice because I want to believe this was Apollo’s way since he always made his own terms, Drago had his ass dead to rights, Rocky is telling him he gotta stop this, but Apollo is straight up like, “Fuck that, don’t stop a damn thing.”
Some may say it was pride, but remember he was bleeding internally in his very first match against Rocky and wanted that fight to continue as well. This was the way Apollo chose to go out — it’s either walk away from the battlefield or die on it. That’s just who Apollo Creed was. Now was that selfish? Extremely so, he left his wife a widow, his kids without a father, and in the heat of the moment left his death literally on his best friend Rocky’s hands as he made him PROMISE not to throw in the towel.
In Creed, when his son Adonis finds Rocky and they discuss Apollo, Adonis thinks perhaps Apollo just wanted that warrior’s death, while Rocky thinks he should have gone against his word because what Apollo would really want is to be here to see Adonis. Again, it was a very selfish request that Apollo asked of Rocky, but he asked him because he knew he’d be strong enough to see it through. There’s so many levels to the decision Apollo made and why he made it that we the viewers, his friends, and his family can still only speculate years later.
Ironically, Creed did fear obscurity taking him, or being forgotten, but even in death the world regards him as the greatest. The man is a sports immortal. We see traces of Apollo in the people that survived him. He passed Rocky the gift of his training and style. We saw a small portion of Creed come out of Rocky when he trained the false successor, Tommy Gunn. But when we see Adonis, the true heir for the baton pass, Rocky incorporates much more of Apollo’s tactics and personality to protect the kid as fiercely as family.
Rocky is quicker to check his boxer this time around as he tells Adonis, “I do the talking, you do the fighting” when his eagerness to jump in the ring comes up. He has to tell him, “You’re talkin’, and when you’re talking you can’t listen and learn,” when explaining to him that his team is there to help him, not hinder him. See, Rocky is still immensely patient, but less lenient with Adonis’ readiness because this kid represents a piece of Apollo he doesn’t want to lose again. Rocky is now much more confident in his role of coach, and Adonis is loyal as fuck, plus trusts him.
Of course, when he motivates Adonis during training he does it with his own classic Rocky charm. Adonis is doing push ups and Rocky says, “Ya know, Apollo could do that with one hand. I ain’t wanna say nothin but if it’s too hard fer yous.” without even looking at him, instantly Adonis switches up and gets it in with one hand behind his back.
That just proves how much of a pinnacle of perfection Apollo Creed was. Everyone wants to live up to his legacy and the art he brought to the ring. Adonis is the continuation of Apollo Creed and may even be the closest one to surpassing him as his fighting style combines working the body like Rocky and destroying the top like Apollo at the same damn time.
Listen, I don’t know how much Blacker you want it to to get ’cause Apollo done paved the way for us. The man was giving you WARS in the ring when he was alive, and even after he died he giving y’all pathos, complexity, and a whole new perspective on the Rocky series through his son. Apollo might be remembered as the showstopper, but never forget he’s the one that took in Rocky at his lowest point and made ’em a monster. Apollo was kind and compassionate in his own way and with his own flare. He believed in his friends, but also trusted them to allow him to go the distance how he wanted, and end on his terms.
Apollo said he never wanted to change, but we saw him change a bit. When he got his third fight with Rocky for the favor of getting him ready for war, this is this the first time we saw him vulnerable and able to admit with humor, that he was still hung up about Rocky beating him by one second. ONE SECOND, man. He didn’t need the cameras and the world to see this friendly rubber match because this was just for Rocky and him. And now, nearly +33 years later, Adonis asked Rocky the question we’ve spent decades wondering, “who won?” and Rocky tells Adonis and us very matter of fact as if it wasn’t even a question,
The world remembers Apollo Creed as the definition of the world Champion, while Rocky remembers him in his own way, retelling stories of him and Apollo going the distance and becoming friends to customers at his restaurant. You can’t help but believe that even though Apollo is gone, that gesture from Rocky, in addition to his best friend training his son, means more to him than anything else the world could ever offer.
“When the lights shut off
and it’s my turn to settle down
My main concern, …Promise
that you will sing about me”