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With the release of the new movie Creed, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) has shifted his position from fighter to trainer, almost certainly for good. While Creed is not a Rocky movie in the strictest of terms, it does give us a reason to look back on the storied career of the silver screen's greatest pugilist, and the battles he had to overcome to reach those heights.
Here are Rocky’s opponents, ranked by toughness. Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below. And vote in our poll at the end!
5. Clubber LangIt seems strange putting Mr. T at the bottom of the list, but while the real man was as tough as they come, the character he played was not. Clubber Lang was by far one of the strongest people that Rocky Balboa fought in his career, but he wasn’t that tough. Lang won his match with Rocky with pure physical power, but he couldn’t take it nearly as well as he dished it out. Once Rocky gained the upper hand in the rematch, there was nothing Lang could do. He was done. He talked the best smack, though. #PaperChampion.
4. Tommy "The Machine" GunnTommy Gunn becomes world champion, in a large part, thanks to the tutelage of Rocky (a fact we expect Creed will gloss over). When Gunn feels he’s being disrespected in the media, because he never beat Rocky, his solution is just beat up the guy on the street. Tommy Morrison was an actual heavyweight boxing champion, but Tommy Gunn is not. The fight goes the equivalent of three rounds, and Gunn is out.
3. Mason "The Line" DixonIn the final film in the series, Rocky Balboa, Mason "The Line" Dixon (who wins the award for worst character name in the franchise) is offended by the idea that Rocky, in his prime, could have beaten him -- as was suggested by a video simulation. The solution? Beat up the old man now. While Rocky is even further from the top of his game than he was against Tommy Gunn, Dixon gets the edge between the two for continuing the fight even though he has a broken hand from round two on. That’s one tough SOB.
2. Ivan DragoTough is the single best word to describe Ivan Drago, as played by Dolph Lundgren. The man is a walking wall of muscle. Apollo Creed, one of the greatest fighters even, achieved zero offense against the man. In Rocky’s fight, he lets a flurry of punches go, and Drago’s response is the Russian equivalent of "Come at me, bro." Rocky does some damage in round two, but the fight goes another dozen rounds before coming to an end. The only reason Drago doesn’t top this list is because he loses points due to the fact that not all his toughness was his own. He was chemically enhanced due to steroids, because he was evil.
1. Apollo CreedApollo Creed had never been knocked down prior to his first round with Rocky Balboa. It would have been simple enough if Creed had been all show and no substance, but that was not the case. Both fights went 15 rounds each, longer than any other fight in Rocky’s on screen career. Apollo stood toe-to-toe with Rocky in both fights all the way to the end and never gave the guy an inch. It only took one knockdown to put most of Rocky’s opponents down the count, but Apollo kept getting up, and that makes him Rocky’s toughest opponent.
Wait, we forgot one VERY important opponent...
Honorable Mention - ThunderlipsNo list of Rocky’s toughest competition is complete without Thunderlips. While not a proper boxing match, and thus, not on this list, Thunderlips fought Balboa to a draw and survived numerous punches from the champ, not to mention a chair to the back, a choke hold, and a body slam into the crowd. This is punishment that nobody else ever survived from Rocky, and it earns Thunderlips, aka Hulk Hogan, an honorable mention.
Who Was Rocky's Toughest Opponent?