Apollo Creed: Overrated…

Posted 2/22/10 by Paul

The saga of Rocky Balboa is one which has captivated audiences and nauseated critics for over thirty years now. The movie represents one of the great underdog stories, a symbol of the American dream. There are some darker themes in the series and, when I had a chance to rewatch some of the movies a few years ago, I was struck by how much dislike I felt for a character I used to think was great.

It’s funny how your perception will really change over the years. Call it cynicism, call it misguided antipathy, but after years of accepting Apollo Creed as one of the most impressive characters in the “Rocky” movies, I know see the character as wholly unlikable and treacherous.

Let me count the ways…

Apollo Creed: Dead Man Walking


Despite his many claims to the contrary, Apollo was no intellectual Juggernaut. Apparently, the Creed character was loosely based on Muhammad Ali. You can see the link. Let’s see: they both got under the skin of their opponents, ranted and raved and were African-American champions. I think the connection should end there, though. What exactly did Apollo achieve? He was supposed to be some great champion, but he got taken to the limit by a meatball with the mental age of a six-year-old. The words “paper” and “champion” immediately spring to mind.

Apollo was not lost for a bit of self-praise. He boasted to Rocky “You fight great, but I’m a great fighter.” Running at the mouth and quick feet are not necessarily crucial qualities in a fighter. They help, sure, but the ability to not get destroyed is more important. Apollo failed in this regard.

Certainly, Creed was prone to indecision. The guy could simply not choose a nickname, so opted for six: “The Master of Disaster,” “The King of Sting,” “The Dancing Destroyer,” “The Count of Monte Fisto”, “The Prince of Pinch” and “The One, The Only.” I can’t be the only person who thinks “The Count of Monte Fisto” and “The Prince of Pinch” score highly on the homoerotic scale. But then, they describe a guy who throws tennis balls to his dog in the swimming pool, even though he has a wife and children. I can’t honestly see Floyd Mayweather Jr. engaging in such odd behavior. Indeed, I am struggling to think of a single functioning human being who would do this.

The major strike against him was, of course, taking the fight with Drago. Before that he took the rematch with Rocky Balboa. He always seemed to want to prove a point. The fights he had were completely unnecessary, proving the mantra that “pride comes before a fall.” Even his advisors tried talking him out of the fights but, of course, Apollo knew best. That is, until he wound up flat on his back staring at the lights.
The fight with Drago was puzzling. Why Creed would want to take part in an exhibition match without adequate preparation or even scouting his opponent is stunning and points to an intense level of arrogance. The very least he could have done was get a report on the guy. That’s bad enough, but then he does everything humanly possible to turn Drago into a killing machine, mocking him in every conceivable way.

Take the press conference, for instance. This was a perfect opportunity for Apollo to show a little grace and respect, which are two qualities you’d expect in a so-called legend. He could have expressed how important it was for him to bow out in style. Instead, he comes across like an arrogant prick, basically denigrating a whole nation, dismissing his younger opponent and turning a supposed exhibition fight into a grudge match. The double take that Creed does when it’s suggested he might, you know, LOSE the fight is hilarious:

“Whoa! Hold on, here! Win?! You don’t think you gonna whip me, do you?”

I don’t think too many over-the-hill fighters would take on a young competitor and give them over a foot in height and NOT at least consider the idea they might lose. It’s nice to be positive but, on some level, realism has to kick in. To rub salt in the wound, Apollo calls Drago’s wife “little lady” and jokes that Drago left his tongue at customs. Wow, racism, petty insults and sexism in equal measure! Word-by-word and insult-by-insult, Apollo was signing his own death warrant.

I’d say the first 97 or so times I watched Rocky IV I saw Apollo’s murder as some sort of cruel tragedy. In truth, he had it coming.

Drago was probably just wanting to rough him up a bit, teach him a lesson and generally shut Apollo’s big mouth. You could hardly blame him, considering all the BS and shenanigans he had to contend with. Apollo had only made him look like a chump in the press conference and had the audacity to antagonize an obviously juiced up monster and all-round killing machine. This was not smart and, as fate would have it, was tantamount to suicide.

So, Apollo taunted Drago all the way up to the fight. Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, he paraded the poor guy in front of a baying audience of patriotic Americans and a dancing James Brown. Drago is literally standing in the boxing ring alone and the ring ascends from the floor. They didn’t even have the decency to inform him or his camp that this might happen. Drago rises from the floor, looking like the proverbial rabbit caught in headlights. Then, James Brown of all people starts singing “Living in America” whilst Apollo and him proceed to make a fool out of Drago yet again. At this juncture, I’m unsure what Ivan Drago did to evoke such anger in Apollo Creed but “being Russian” must surely rank quite highly on the list.

“It’s time to go to school!” Apollo threatened Drago. Please! What sort of school would THAT be? The school of throwing punches like a sissy? Ten seconds into this fight and it’s clear that Apollo was a flake. He hits Drago with three punches and the Russian doesn’t even flinch. We’re supposed to believe that, because Drago is juiced to the gills, he feels no pain. In reality, though, Apollo has no punching power. If a much smaller fighter like Manny Pacquiao hit Drago, he’d be cut and maybe even reeling. Apollo just flaps at him. He’s got the dance moves, but dancing around to “Living in America” is not going to win boxing matches.

Apollo got destroyed, and “exhibition” or not, his pre-fight antics did little to calm Drago down. I’m pretty sure that, had he shown some respect and not turned his fight into a freakshow, Drago would have gone easier on him. It was only an exhibition, after all, and hardly worth all the drama.

I think Rocky summed Apollo up best when he eulogized “There’s a lot I could say about this man, but I don’t know if it matters now. I guess what matters is what he stood for, what he lived for, and what he died for. You always did everything the way you wanted it.” Apollo dies for his own hubris, the need to make a point. I’m sure that was comforting for his widow and even less so for his long-suffering friend (aka “verbal punching bag”), who went on a quest of navel-gazing, guilt and melancholy.

Perhaps if Apollo had allowed Rocky to throw in the towel and enjoyed his life of retirement, the whole thing would have made more sense. It was odd, really, that Rocky even wanted to avenge Apollo’s death. He should have just accepted that Apollo’s life was a cautionary tale and that overconfidence and bad manners can have bad outcomes…

Like getting annihilated by a big Russian who feels motivated to defend the honor of his countrymen…

Creed didn’t really seem to care about Rocky. He insulted him in the first two movies and, by Rocky III, he wanted to train Rocky. This was, as it transpired, just an elaborate way for getting himself back in the limelight. Masterplan: train Rocky, have him win and take all the credit. True friendship! Then, when Rocky beat Clubber Lang and got his mojo back, Creed drops the bomb that he wants to have another match with him. This wasn’t a real match, of course. He just wanted to throw Rocky about a bit in a meaningless sparring session. This was just set up so Apollo could soothe his own ego since he “couldn’t handle” losing in their title fight.

Rocky beats Creed again...

Beach sprints: Ideal preparation for Heavyweight Boxing matches

Nobody likes a smartass and Apollo treats Rocky with disdain throughout the series. Knowing that Rocky Balboa is not a bright man (understatement of the decade), Apollo uses it as a springboard to be sarcastic and to demean his “friend.” In the dressing room before his big fight with Drago, he tries to convince Rocky that he feels like he “could eat nails.” We’ve all misheard comments once in a while; the last thing we need is pointless correction. Rocky hears the comment as “I feel like I could eat snails.” Hey, easy enough mistake to make, and it might actually be considered more unusual to want to eat nails than it is to eat snails. Rocky then trails off on a spirited comment about the merits of snail consumption. Rather than just let this pass, since it wasn’t the most grievous error a person could make, Apollo felt compelled to embarrass his “friend” by snapping “not snails, Stallion! Nails! N-N-Nails!” The guy just misheard. Was it really necessary to shit all over his intelligence, too?!

I think not.

But then, all this sums up the character of Apollo Creed perfectly. A guy who wears flashy shorts, dances about a bit, talks a good game but is only out to bolster himself and kick his friends down…

Apollo Creed: paper champion, bad husband and terrible friend.

In the end, and rightly so, he got his just rewards…



11 Responses to “Apollo Creed: Overrated…”

  1. JCC Says:

    I always took it that what Apollo got was what he wanted. Up until the fight with Drago, Rocky 4 built on the idea that Creed was afraid of getting old, of being over the hill, and of eventually fading out of the limelight. Then he tells Rocky not to stop the fight no matter what happens. Creed was prepared to die in the ring during that match, and avoid living to see all those things he feared.

  2. Paul Says:

    Yeah, I agree. Dave had this theory too. Still, even though he knew that’s how he was going to bow out, it wasn’t exactly fair to his wife and kids…or the guy left holding the towel. Apollo was a coward…

  3. JCC Says:

    Fully agreed on the wife and kids. As for Rocky, he could’ve still thrown it in. Sure, he may’ve lost Apollo as a friend for doing it, but he’d have saved his life.

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  8. Sheilah Biddie Says:

    Muhammad Ali or Cassius Clay as he was also known could ‘dance like a butterfly and sting like a bee’

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  11. nair1992 Says:

    i just think that alot of people make drago look like a monster or something just because he killed apollo. well i will never know if drago was really mad at apollo, in the press conference it shows exactly how americans are so stupid and they think they are the best, and ivan a russian fighter is a very respectful person and he didn´t even say anything when apollo want it to put him down. sometimes that´s what happens when you think you are the best and that you can beat your opponent when you really don´t know your opponent strenght. i just think that apollo somehow got what he deserve. he under estimated so much, that he got killed by a guy whom he laughed at him at the press conference. apollo somehow thought that ivan was like all the other boxer that hebeat up, but he was wrong.