Rocky Balboa

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This article is about the fictional boxer. For the sixth film in the Rocky series, see Rocky Balboa (film).
Rocky Balboa
Rocky character
Rocky balboa.jpeg
Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa
First appearance Rocky
Last appearance Creed
Created by Sylvester Stallone
Portrayed by Sylvester Stallone
Nickname(s) The Italian Stallion
Gender Male
Occupation Professional boxer (retired)
Spouse(s) Adrianna "Adrian" Balboa (née Pennino)
Children Robert "Rocky" Balboa Jr. (son)
Relatives Paulie Pennino (brother-in-law)
Butkus and Punchy (his dogs)
Religion Roman Catholic
Nationality American

Robert "Rocky" Balboa, Sr. is the title character of the Rocky series from 1976 to 2015. The character was created and portrayed by Sylvester Stallone. Throughout the films, he is depicted as an everyman who started out by going the distance and overcoming obstacles that had occurred in his life and career as a professional boxer. This character is among one of Stallone's best known characters and is often considered the role that started his film career.


Robert "Rocky" Balboa born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 6, 1945 (one year before Sylvester Stallone's actual birth date). He was the only child in a Roman Catholic Italian-American family. During the scene in which Rocky takes Adrianna "Adrian" Pennino skating on Thanksgiving, he tells her, "Yeah – My ol' man who was never the sharpest told me – I weren't born with much brain so I better use my body." This encouraged him to take up boxing. He trained very hard so he could grow up to be like his idol Rocky Marciano. Unable to live on the small pay of club fights, and being unable to find work anywhere else, Rocky got a job as a collector for Tony Gazzo, the local loan shark, just to make ends meet. By late 1975, Rocky had fought in 64 fights, winning 44 (38 KO'S) and losing 20. Rocky was proud that he never had his nose broken in a professional fight (but eventually broke his nose in his first fight against Apollo Creed). His nickname is "The Italian Stallion", spawning from his Italian-American heritage.

Rocky (Setting 1975–1976)[edit]

The film begins in 1975, in the slums of the Kensington section of Philadelphia, three nights before Thanksgiving. Rocky Balboa is fighting Spider Rico in a local boxing ring called the Cambria Fight Club (nicknamed "The Bucket of Blood") inside a chapel. In the second round, Rico hits Balboa with a headbutt, leaving a gash on his forehead. Enraged, Rocky delivers a vicious barrage of punches, knocking Rico out. The next day, Rocky stops by the local pet store and tries to talk to the shy pet-shop worker Adrian Pennino, younger sister of his friend Paulie. Adrian was very shy though and was scared of Rocky's tough appearance. Afterwards, Rocky goes to collect a loan for his boss Tony Gazzo. Even though the client didn't have all the money, Rocky didn't break his thumb, even though Gazzo ordered him to do so. Later, Rocky stops by the local boxing gym and finds that he lost his locker to a contender. Unknown to him, the gym's owner and grizzled former boxer, Mickey Goldmill, doesn't hate him, but instead always considered Rocky's potential to be better than his effort. When Rocky leaves for home that night, he sees a young girl named Marie, hanging around a bad crowd and walks her home. On the way, Rocky lectures her about staying away from the wrong people. However, once they get to her house she tells Rocky "Screw you, creep'o." Rocky walks home, frustrated how nothing is going right in his life.

Balboa gets his big break when the undisputed World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed decides that he wants to give an unknown fighter a chance to fight for the title after his intended challenger Mac Lee Green broke his hand while training. Creed was told no other contender was available for a fight on Jan. 1, which was only weeks away. The First of January had to be the day due to Philadelphia celebrating the Bicentennial on that day in 1976, it was inferred by Creed, with the accompanying worldwide audience. Creed chooses Rocky because he likes Balboa's nickname, 'The Italian Stallion'.

After getting picked by Apollo, Balboa reunites with his estranged trainer, Mickey Goldmill, who convinces Balboa that he can help get him prepared for this fight. Mickey reveals that his career never got anywhere either because he didn't have a manager and he didn't want the same thing to happen to Rocky. At the same time, Balboa begins dating Adrian. Rocky helped Adrian to become more self-confident and stand up for herself. Rocky confides in Adrian before the fight that though he figured he wouldn't win, he wanted to at least "go the distance."

On January 1, 1976 at the Philadelphia Spectrum, Balboa fights Creed, who didn't take the fight seriously during training. In the first round, Rocky knocks Creed down, the first time he had ever been knocked down in his career and Creed breaks Rocky's nose, also for the first time in his career. Creed soon realizes that although Balboa doesn't have his skill, he could deliver crippling, sledge-hammer like punches and was stubbornly determined to keep fighting. The fight becomes a long and grueling battle for both men. Rocky was almost knocked out in the 14th round, but managed to get up. The 15th round finally began and Rocky managed to pummel Creed until the bell rang. Although Creed wins the fight by a split decision, it was the first time an opponent has lasted the full 15 rounds against him. Both men, battered beyond belief, agree that there would be no rematch. Rocky was fine with this as he only wanted to go the distance with Creed. After the match, Adrian climbed into the ring and embraced Rocky saying,"I love you!"

Rocky II (Setting 1976)[edit]

After the match, Creed changed his mind and wanted a re-match under the stress of being humiliated by the press for failing to beat Balboa convincingly, as well as his own knowledge that he didn't give his best in the fight. Creed demanded a rematch with Balboa, stating that he would fight him 'anywhere, any place, anytime' to prove to the world that Balboa's feat was merely a fluke. Rocky initially refuses and marries Adrian who convinces him to live outside boxing. However, Rocky, a grade-school drop-out, soon realized he had no skills beyond fighting, and in fact could barely read. The money he made in the first fight was soon frittered away so Adrian took up her part-time job in the pet store. Despite her objections, after Apollo insulted Rocky on national television and the newspaper, he agreed to the rematch. Without Adrian's support, however, Rocky was greatly discouraged and could not draw any concentration into his training whatsoever leaving Mick frustrated and worried. The now pregnant Adrian went into premature labor due to over stress and slipped into a coma after giving birth to Robert. When Adrian came out of the coma, she promised her full support to Rocky. Together, Mickey and Rocky trained hard, focusing on Rocky's speed and improving his right-handed punching (Rocky being a southpaw). At the same time, the angry Apollo also focused on his training, taking this match much more seriously than the first fight. The re-match was set for Thanksgiving '76. The grueling battle was another 15-round war with both Balboa and Creed falling to the canvas after Balboa landed a succession of left hands. Referee Lou Fillipo exercised his 10-count to the limit and as both Creed and Balboa struggled to make it to their feet, Creed crumbled back down in exhaustion. Rocky was able to get up, from sheer determination and beat the 10-count, winning the rematch by knockout, thus becoming heavyweight champion of the world.

Rocky III (Setting 1976–1982)[edit]

Over the next three years, Rocky successfully defended his title in 10 consecutive defenses against various contenders, amassing fortune and worldwide fame in the process. In addition, Rocky also fought an exhibition bout against the World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion "Thunderlips" (Hulk Hogan) to a draw. However, in 1981, Rocky was challenged by intense and hungry newcomer James "Clubber" Lang who has risen to the top of the rankings . Rocky had some issues with his trainer Mickey Goldmill due to his revelation of having faced "hand-picked" challengers that were "good fighters, but not 'killers'" which Lang was. Mickey insisted that he would quit as Balboa's manager if he chose to fight Lang, but Rocky convinced him to train him for one last match. However, just like Apollo in the first film, Rocky didn't put his heart into the training, reinforcing Mickey's belief that Rocky had become too comfortable (or "civilized") as champion. Lang shoved Mickey out of the way during a violent exchange of words with Balboa moment before the match, sending the elderly trainer into cardiac arrest, which threw Rocky, outmatched and undertrained, completely off his game. As a result Rocky was brutalized by Lang and knocked out in the second round, losing his title; and adding to his defeat, Mick dies of a heart attack after the match, devastating Rocky. Despairing and lost, Rocky was met by Apollo Creed, who told Balboa that when they fought, he won because he was hungry. He had the 'fire' Apollo no longer had, and the former champion convinced Rocky that he needed to get his fire ("the eye of the tiger") back. Along with his old trainer Tony "Duke" Evers, Apollo offered to train Rocky for a rematch against Lang, taking Balboa to L.A where he first trained to get Rocky "back to basics." After a while Rocky managed to purge his doubts and get his fire back. Fighting with a style very reminiscent of Creed's own boxing technique mixed with his own style, Rocky won the second match with Lang by KO, dodging and absorbing Lang's best blows and still standing, regaining his world heavyweight title. After the fight, Rocky and Apollo were last seen alone in Mickey's Gym, Creed taking his "payment" for his training services: one last rematch, just the two of them, no spectators. This fight was only a sparring session between two new friends.

Rocky IV (Setting 1985)[edit]

In 1985, Apollo Creed comes out of retirement and agrees to fight Soviet World Amateur Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist-turned-professional fighter Ivan Drago in Las Vegas with Rocky Balboa and Tony "Duke" Evers in his corner. Creed, past his prime but in the best shape of his retirement, again not taking his opponent seriously, was brutally beaten by massive Drago in the first round but begged Rocky not to stop the fight. In the second round, Creed continued to be beaten by Drago, falling limp in the ring and succumbing to his injuries. Feeling responsible for Apollo's death, Balboa sets up a match with Drago, which was held on Christmas Day in Moscow. Rocky had to surrender his World Heavyweight Championship title to accept this bout. With Evers assuming the role as his new trainer, Balboa trained hard using old-school methods within the mountainous terrain of Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, while Drago was shown being trained with state-of-the-art equipment and steroid enhancement.

During the fight, Drago dominated the early moments of the match, but in the second round, Balboa caught Drago with a haymaker to the eye and cut him. The fight continued in a bloody back-and-forth battle, with the Soviet crowd who had originally rooted for Drago began cheering for Balboa while Drago's handler became increasingly upset over his inability to finish the smaller American. In the end, Rocky's superior stamina and determination to win persevered and he defeated the colossal Russian in the fifteenth round. After the fight, Rocky gave an impassioned thank you speech to the crowd which received a standing ovation both from the crowd and the politicians in attendance, effectively ending the Cold War by catalyzing the thaw in relations that would occur between the United States and USSR. Rocky then retires due to damage suffered from the fight.

Rocky V (Setting 1985–1988)[edit]

After the bout with Drago, Rocky realizes while he is showering that he has sustained some type of injury from the fight. His hands tremble relentlessly and he tells Adrian he is tired and just wants to go home, but accidentally addresses her as Mickey. Upon return to the United States (in a Soviet airplane), his press conference is interrupted by promoter George Washington Duke and Union Cane. They challenge him to a title fight called "Lettin' it Go in Tokyo." Rocky hints at retirement and leaves without accepting the challenge. Balboa’s doctor, Presley Jensen, discovers that Rocky has apparently suffered brain damage, caused by extremely heavy blows to the head, and so he decides to retire. He then loses his fortune after his brother-in-law Paulie mistakenly had Rocky sign away power of attorney to their accountant, who subsequently embezzled Rocky's money in a housing deal gone bad.

His only remaining asset is the now closed Mickey's Gym, which had been willed by Mickey to Robert, Rocky's son. Rocky and the family are forced to return to the old neighbourhood, moving back into Adrian and Paulie's old house in South Philadelphia. He reopens Mickey's Gym as a means of income while Adrian returns to work at the pet store, where she was employed when she first met Rocky. Rocky asks Adrian, "Did we ever leave this place?" Though retired from boxing himself, Balboa starts training an up-and-coming fighter, Tommy Gunn. Tommy slowly becomes an excellent fighter, but suffers some from being constantly put in Rocky's shadow; he is nicknamed "Rocky's Robot" by the media. Tommy is wooed by seedy promoter George Washington Duke and leaves Rocky after an argument about whether Balboa is holding him back. At the same time, Robert also has problems adjusting to the new, less-than-lavish lifestyle his family is now leading, and by his father's emotional distance. After a while, Rocky realizes the damage he is doing to his relationship with his son, and he makes amends.

Tommy wins the World Heavyweight title from Union Cane in 1988. However, he is ridiculed in the press—since he had never fought a "real contender," he is not regarded as a real champion or heir to the belt. This motivates Tommy, with prodding from Duke, to publicly challenge Rocky to a fight. Balboa initially declines, but when the hot-tempered Tommy punches Paulie, Rocky accepts, telling Tommy his ring is in the alley right outside. The two engage in a street brawl which quickly gets the attention of the locals, the police (who allow the fight to continue), and the media. In the end, Rocky defeats his protege, then punches Duke (who had obnoxiously threatened to sue if Rocky touches him), telling him "Sue me for what?" Rocky and his son run up the Philadelphia Museum of Art stairs the next day, where Rocky gives him a valuable possession of Mickey Goldmill's that had been passed on to him by Rocky Marciano himself. The two make up for the tensions of the past few years and head in to the museum together.

Rocky Balboa (Setting 2005–2006)[edit]

In 1995, sometime after the events of Rocky V, Rocky opens up a restaurant called 'Adrian's', named after his wife who, on January 11, 2002, dies of ovarian cancer. After her funeral, Rocky visits her graveside every day and each year on the anniversary of her death, he takes a tour of the old places where their relationship began and blossomed: the pet shop, now closed, where Adrian worked, the site of the former ice skating rink where they had their first date, and Rocky's old apartment where they fell in love. Rocky's son who, unlike his father, goes by Robert and struggles as a mid-level corporate employee, grows farther apart from his family over the years, and only reluctantly joins Rocky to commemorate the anniversaries of his mother's passing.

In 2006, ESPN’s program Then And Now features a computer animation about a simulated fight between Rocky (in his prime), and the current champion, Mason "The Line" Dixon. The fight simulated Rocky winning by knockout in the 10th round, which stirred up a great deal of discussion about the result if such a fight ever occurred. Inspired by the simulation and feeling he still has some issues to deal with ("stuff in the basement"), Rocky (who is now 59 years old) decides to return to the ring, and applies for a boxing license. Though Rocky passes the required physical with flying colors, the Licensing Committee denies his license citing his advanced age and their moral duty to protect him from himself. Rocky responds to this with an impassioned speech of his own, however, and they change their minds and give him his license.

The brain damage suffered in Rocky V is not addressed in this film, but in interviews, Stallone has said that the storyline explanation would have been that Rocky's brain damage was within the normal range for boxers. When tested for brain damage in Rocky V, Rocky was suffering the effects of a severe concussion as a result of the Drago fight, but he never sought a second or more informed opinion because he intended to retire anyway.[1]

Rocky's intentions were originally just to compete in small, local fights for fun and charity, but with the publicity of Rocky's return right on the heels of the embarrassing computer simulation, Mason Dixon's promoters convince Rocky to face The Champ in an exhibition bout in Las Vegas. Originally also against fighting an aged Balboa, Dixon recognizes the opportunity to fight a legend, and hopes to end all prognosticating about who would win as well as contentions that he has never had a truly great opponent or memorable match. In the press, commentators dismiss Rocky's chances and the merits of the fight, assuming that it will be one-sided due to Rocky's age despite their original excitement with Rocky's return to the ring and their doubts regarding Dixon's ability.

As news of the bout spreads, Robert begins to feel more pressure from being Rocky's son and makes an effort to discourage Rocky from fighting, blaming his own personal failings on his father's celebrity shadow, but Rocky rebukes him with some profound advice: to succeed in life, "it ain't about how hard you hit; it's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward," and that blaming others won't help him. The day after this argument, father and son meet over Adrian's grave and reconcile, which is when Robert announces that he has quit his job to be at Rocky's ringside. Rocky also reunites with his old trainer, Duke, and both men quickly realize that age and arthritis have sapped Rocky of any speed he once possessed. They decide to focus on his one major remaining weapon: power.

When the fight finally begins, it appears to go as lopsided as everyone predicted with Dixon's speed allowing him to punish Rocky at will. However, the champion soon realizes Rocky will not go down and that the old man "has bricks in his gloves". The tide turns when Dixon injures his hand while punching Rocky. This evens the playing field and allows Rocky to mount an offense. In the end, the two fighters go the distance with Dixon winning by split decision (Dixon wins by in the theatrical release, Balboa wins in an alternate ending[citation needed]). Dixon is finally recognized as being a warrior for fighting through every round and Rocky proves to the world that he is no joke, mirroring the ending of the first Rocky.

After the fight Rocky visits Adrian's grave and puts flowers on top telling her, "Yo, Adrian, we did it", which is a play on the second Rocky movie's line, "Yo, Adrian, I did it!". Rocky is last seen walking away from the grave and waving goodbye one last time.

Personal life[edit]

Balboa resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and married Adriana "Adrian" Pennino in 1976 during Rocky II. They were married for 26 years. The two have a son, Robert "Rocky" Balboa, Jr., who unlike his father goes by Robert. He was born in 1976. As evidenced by conversations with his priest Father Carmine, Rocky understands Italian very well; however, it is unknown whether or not he speaks the language because his responses are in English. Balboa was a humble man with great heart of forgiving others on their mistakes.

After Adrian's death in 2002, Rocky and his brother-in-law Paulie live together for a short time, then Paulie moves in with an unnamed girlfriend. Now living completely alone again, Rocky cannot come to terms with present-day living and constantly thinks about the past. With the help of Paulie and reunited long-time aquantance Marie, Rocky begins to move on with his life and in the process restores his relationship with his only child, his son Robert. Rocky's relationship with Marie is established as platonic in the film, but a hint of a romantic interest is revealed with a kiss on the lips the night before the last fight of his life.

Character origin[edit]

The name, iconography, and fighting style of Rocky Balboa were inspired by the legendary heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano from Brockton, Massachusetts. Balboa was also inspired by other fighting legends: Joe Frazier, for his Philadelphia origin, training methods and victory against Muhammad Ali (the inspiration for Apollo Creed), and Jake LaMotta, for his Italian-inner city roots, ability to absorb many blows and his rivalry with Sugar Ray Robinson, which heavily resembled Rocky and Apollo's. However, it was the not-so-legendary Chuck Wepner who inspired the movie and Balboa's underdog personality.

Boxing style[edit]

Rocky Balboa fights as a southpaw (left-handed). In the second film, against Apollo Creed, he comes out "orthodox" and switches back to southpaw late in the last round. The real reason for this is Sylvester Stallone tore his pectoral muscles in training,[citation needed] but the idea was probably taken from the great left-handed boxer "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler who would sometimes come out orthodox to confuse opponents.

Rocky was an all or nothing brawler coming into his first bout with Creed, however under the training of Micky he began to develop his boxing skills ahead of the rematch, which were mastered during his reign as world champion, he became a world class hybrid fighter, possessing the qualities of an inside fighter, brawler, and swarmer. With the exception of his rematch against Clubber Lang (where he fights as an outside fighter), he often advances quickly upon his opponents, driving them into the ropes in order to attack the body. Balboa's best attribute is without question his near-superhuman ability to absorb a multitude of the hardest hits without falling — an attribute he often employs on purpose to wear down his opponents, sacrificing defensive strategy to land his own punches. Because of this rare talent, Balboa can afford to keep his hands in position to strike rather than up high to block. Because he takes more punches than he throws, it is easy to overlook his incredible punching power. Rocky also has an uncanny ability to sense weakness in his opponents, often capitalizing on every shift in momentum possible. He is acknowledged as having the most devastating body attack in the sport, with his body blows causing internal bleeding in Creed and breaking Drago's ribs. After going two rounds with Balboa, Ivan Drago told his trainer (in Russian), "He's not human, he's like a piece of iron." Mason Dixon once remarked about Balboa, "...that guy's got bricks in his gloves." These qualities, in concert, helped land him a high percentage of KO victories over the course of his career.


Rocky Statue, situated just northeast of the Rocky Steps.

Rocky Balboa was named the 7th greatest movie hero by the American Film Institute on their 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains list.[3] Additionally, he was ranked #34 on Empire Magazine's compilation of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters.[4] Premiere magazine ranked Rocky Balboa #64 on their list of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.[5]

The Rocky character is immortalised by a bronze statue erected near the Rocky Steps in Philadelphia recalling the famous scene from the original Rocky movie.

In 2011, Sylvester Stallone was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame for his work on the Rocky Balboa character, having "entertained and inspired boxing fans from around the world". Additionally, Stallone was awarded the Boxing Writers Association of America award for “Lifetime Cinematic Achievement in Boxing.”[6]

A poll of former heavyweight champions and boxing writers ranked Balboa as the best boxer in the film series.[7]


Hasbro intended to license Rocky and make him a member of the G.I. Joe toyline, as they had with wrestler Sgt. Slaughter. A toy prototype was produced.[8] Marvel Comics' G.I. Joe: Order of Battle profile book came out during the negotiations and included Rocky as a current Joe member, specializing in hand-to-hand combat training and an example of what it means to persevere under seemingly impossible odds. As the negotiations then collapsed, due to Stallone licensing Rambo to another company, Marvel had to run a retraction in the third issue of the limited-run series indicating that the character was never a part of G.I. Joe.[9]


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