The godfather of boxing cinema will soon be back on the silver screen. The old timers might remember and celebrate Requiem for a Heavyweight, but for most modern day boxing fans, the quintessential story of the Sweet Science on film belongs to Rocky Balboa. And soon, Sylvester Stallone will once again reprise the role that made him famous, but now with a whole new twist. From the first trailer of the upcoming film Creed, Stallone’s spinoff from his Rocky series seem fresh, insightful, and filled with the right kind of sweetness to have boxing fans and hopefully many others, lining up at theaters across the country.
Creed is the story of the late Apollo Creed’s son, Adonis. For those who haven’t followed the Rocky series, Apollo Creed is the Muhammad Ali character Stallone wrote into his Oscar winning screenplay. Creed was a flashy, fast, and pretty braggadocio holding the heavyweight title when the underdog who defined a generation of boxing hopes and dreams (aka Rocky “The Italian Stallion” Balboa) got his shot at the crown. After a pair of fights against Balboa and one, training him, Creed reemerged in the Rocky series in a fight against Ivan Drago – the embodiment of the U.S.’s Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union.
Drago beat Creed to death. Literally. The fight and callousness of the Cold War was captured in an often parodied saying Drago uttered with disdain in his post-fight interview in the film, as Creed lay bleeding and broken on the canvas:
“If he dies, he dies.”
Creed the film, picks up in the shadow of that rich background. Stallone’s character isn’t the protagonist anymore. Although too old to fight, his life and career offer more than enough fodder to teach Adonis about the fight game and the father he never got to know.
Stallone’s new film marries one of boxing’s favorite characters with the brilliant directorial talents of Ryan Coogler (who helmed the critically acclaimed Fruitvale) and one of the best young actors out there today, Michael B. Jordan (who’s already had roles in one of the greatest television dramas ever filmed, The Wire, the great teen drama/football series Friday Night Lights, and starred in Fruitvale). With such weight behind the film, boxing fans are right to be hopeful of what Stallone’s latest film might deliver.
The timing of the movie is no coincidence. The first half of 2015 has been an undeniable success for boxing as a whole. From record breaking fights like Mayweather-Pacquiao to the return of boxing to primetime to the rapid spread of fight cards across multiple television channels, the sport is more visible and culturally significant today than it has been in decades.
To highlight that point, you don’t need to go father than realizing that Creed isn’t the first mainstream boxing film out this year, or even this season. It’s the second. The first was Southpaw, directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Brooklyn's Finest) featuring Jake Gyllenhall.
When was the last time you saw two feature films about boxing being advertised at the same time, much less with the type of star power and money behind these films?
It's an exciting time for boxing. For those of us who have been waiting for our sport to receive the respect and attention it deserves, it’s hard not to be enthusiastic about Creed and Southpaw. These films are not just examples of how boxing has grown but might also be instrumental in pushing it forward. The reality is that the right film can do wonders for the marketability and popularity of a sport. Most importantly, for a new generation of youth deciding where they want to invest their sweat, the right film can be an incredibly powerful recruiting tool. So I'm rooting for Hollywood to win big with Creed and Southpaw. The bigger they win, the more boxing thrives.
A former college wrestler, Taekwondo black-belt, and wannabe boxer, Paul Navarro (aka Fight Like Sugar) is now a full-time lawyer, part-time fight scribe, and high school wrestling coach.