In Rocky IV, Apollo Creed tells Rocky Balboa not to stop the fight with Ivan Drago "no matter what." Rocky honors his friend's wishes to his everlasting regret, as the decision ultimately costs Apollo his life. The regret was not limited to the character of Rocky, as Sylvester Stallone expressed his regrets at killing off Apollo Creed in Rocky IV while offering well wishes on Carl Weathers recent birthday. Sly said:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Carl Weathers! Your performances were amazing! ... Besides being a great actor he is the BEST cinema boxer of ALL TIME ! Truly amazing , GRACE , POWER , and UNBELIEVABLY FAST!!!!! Never ever to be duplicated! Thank you my friend, never could have done it without you!!! ..... I have to admit I regret having Apollo passing away so soon. He was Irreplaceable...
Sylvester Stallone both wrote and directed the classic Rocky IV, so he was responsible for the choice to have Carl Weathers' character bite the dust at the hands of Ivan Drago. With the benefit of hindsight, the actor regrets killing off Apollo Creed and losing the character as a part of the Rocky franchise. It seems that a big part of that regret has to do with the man who portrayed him.
In his Instagram post, Sylvester Stallone gushes about Carl Weathers' performances as Apollo Creed, praising his athleticism and calling him the best cinema boxer of all time. Considering the amount of boxing movies there have been and actors who have portrayed the sweet science onscreen, including Stallone himself, this is quite the compliment.
That presence and level of skill are not easily duplicated, and as Sylvester Stallone said, that made Carl Weathers and Apollo Creed irreplaceable. So even though he was in four Rocky films, Apollo Creed was still gone too soon for Sly. Of course, Sylvester Stallone may not have known at the time that it was "so soon." Rocky IV may have seemed like the end of the franchise at the time and thus an appropriate time to kill Apollo.
If Sylvester Stallone could go back in time and correct this regret, who knows how that might have changed the series. Rocky IV is a quest for revenge for the death of his friend, and the movie loses that if Apollo doesn't die. Maybe Drago could have just crippled Apollo or ended his career without killing him. Or maybe Drago could have just beat Apollo, causing Rocky to want to fight him from a competitive standpoint, but that wouldn't have had the same emotional weight.
Apollo's death also provided the narrative thrust for last year's Creed II, when Apollo Creed's son sought to remedy the past and prove something to himself by taking on the son of the man that killed his father. So it's safe to say that both the rest of the Rocky films post-Rocky IV and the Creed movies would be different if Apollo hadn't perished when/how he did.
Nevertheless, Sylvester Stallone is right about Carl Weathers' performance as Apollo Creed. Apollo had a swagger that made him a captivating presence and highly entertaining character to watch. And it's hard not to wonder how the franchise might have dealt with Apollo and Rocky's great friendship as the two grew older.
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