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Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed
|First appearance||Rocky (1976)|
|Last appearance||Creed II (2018)|
|Portrayed by||Carl Weathers|
|Nickname||The Dancing Destroyer|
The King of Sting
The Count of Monte Fisto
The Prince of Punch
The Master of Disaster
The One and Only
|Spouse||Mary Anne Creed|
|Relatives||Amara Creed (granddaughter)|
|Born||August 17, 1942|
Los Angeles County, California, U.S.
|Died||August 31, 1985 (aged 43)|
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
|Wins by KO||46|
Apollo Creed is a fictional character from the Rocky films. He was played by Carl Weathers. He is a tough but agile boxer, who is, as the series begins, the undisputed heavyweight world champion. The character was inspired by the real-life champion Muhammad Ali, having what one author remarked as the same "brash, vocal, [and] theatrical" personality. Sylvester Stallone stated, "[Jack] Johnson served as the inspiration for the character of Apollo Creed in the Rocky movies"; the character is loosely based on a combination of Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Joe Louis, and Jack Johnson. Protagonist Rocky Balboa, Creed's rival in Rocky and Rocky II, faces underdog odds (five-to-one in Rocky II) and views Creed with respect, pointedly refusing the prodding of a reporter to "trash talk" against Creed by laconically remarking, "He's great."
In Rocky, Creed essentially cleans out his division of serious challengers and magnanimously decides to fight journeyman Balboa for the fan spectacle. In the film and its sequel, Balboa and Creed find themselves basically evenly matched in the ring, ending up friends by the third movie. Creed had multiple nicknames, including most prominently "The Master of Disaster". Others include "The King of Sting", "The Dancing Destroyer", "The Prince of Punch", and "The Count of Monte Fisto". A 2013 poll of former heavyweight champions and boxing writers, including former WBA heavyweight star James "Bonecrusher" Smith, ranked Creed as the second-best boxer in the Rocky series.
Role in the series
In the Rocky and Creed films, Apollo Creed is a heavyweight boxing champion who is rival and friend of Rocky Balboa. Michael Wilbon of Pardon the Interruption describes Creed as "maybe the best of all time; in the discussion".
Apollo Creed first appeared in the 1976 Oscar-winning film Rocky as the charismatic, intelligent, and undefeated 33-year-old World Heavyweight Champion. A planned Bicentennial fight against number-one contender Mac Lee Green was scheduled for January 1, 1976, which Creed gladly hypes whenever someone places a microphone in front of him. However, Green hurts his left hand in training, and when none of the other top-ranked contenders, such as Joe Czak and Buddy Shaw, step up to face the champion, Creed responds with a promotion that will generate huge publicity. He will offer an unknown local fighter an opportunity to battle for the title in a match in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Upon reviewing the local boxers in Philadelphia, Creed is drawn to a club fighter named Rocky Balboa because Balboa is Italian and has a catchy nickname, "The Italian Stallion". Creed also explains his choice by saying: "Who discovered America? An Italian, right? What better way to celebrate its 200th birthday than to get it on with one of his descendants?" Creed brushes off the idea of the left-handed Balboa giving him a fight, pledging to knock him out in three rounds. In spite of his trainer's concern when he sees Balboa in a television interview, training by punching sides of beef in a meat-packing plant, Creed puts more effort into giving everyone a good show rather than training for the bout. When the match takes place, Creed dresses up like both George Washington and Uncle Sam in the pre-fight festivities (with his matching trademark "stars and stripes" boxing shorts) and is in a jovial mood until Balboa knocks him down in the first round with a single uppercut, the first time Creed has been knocked down in his career. He then endures a gruelling 15-round fight with Balboa, who gets to his feet after Creed takes him down with an uppercut in the 14th round in what appears to be the end of the match. This was the first time anyone had ever taken the champion the full 15 rounds.
Both fighters are beaten, bloodied, and bruised by the end of the bout—Balboa with severe eye damage and Creed with internal bleeding. Creed gains a controversial split decision victory, and neither fighter wants a rematch, at least at that moment.
Rocky II 
In the second film, Creed demands a rematch in the hospital ER, and challenges Rocky to finish the fight from the climax of the first film. Creed's desire for a rematch with Balboa intensifies when it becomes clear that the prevailing public opinion is that Creed had been paid to intentionally carry Rocky for the 15-round distance instead of knocking him out early in the fight. Eager to change minds and ignoring the pleas of his staff, Creed challenges Balboa to a second fight on Thanksgiving Day, 1976. He uses various humiliation tactics to coax Balboa out of retirement. Rocky had married his girlfriend Adrian after getting out of the hospital after the first fight. Creed insists at the press conference that he would "drop him like a bad habit" and tells Rocky when he leaves, "Come November, you're mine!" In a press interview during training, he also insists that Rocky "cannot last five minutes in the ring with a superior athlete like me!" Creed plows through sparring partners and trains harder than ever before, with the intention of punishing Balboa for the embarrassment eleven months earlier. Mickey trains Rocky to become faster by chasing and catching a chicken.
Unlike their first fight, Creed dominates Balboa throughout the second fight, thwarting Rocky's strategy of fighting right-handed. Despite this, he is unable to make good on his promise of an early knockout victory, as Rocky absorbs his punches. By the final round, Creed is well ahead on points; however, he also endures a substantial beating in later rounds, when it becomes apparent he cannot knock Balboa out, and Balboa begins landing his own punches on the tiring Creed. Not wanting a repeat of the first fight (and ignoring the pleas of his trainers), he vows to knock Balboa out rather than taking the safer route by winning on points. At the beginning of the 15th round, he tells Rocky, "You're going down", to which Rocky replies, "No way". After going toe-to-toe for much of the final round, Creed is knocked down by a left from Balboa, with Balboa falling down in exhaustion as well. Rocky gets up by the count of 9, but Creed is unable to pull himself up and is counted out, losing the match and the championship by knockout, his first professional loss.
Apollo retires from boxing soon after. Even though he has lost, he gains his respect from the crowd back since it feels that he fought and lost in a fair fight. The fight also results in Creed finally acknowledging Balboa's ability as a fighter, rather than seeing him as a fluke.
In the third film, a 39-year-old Apollo Creed appears at the first fight between James "Clubber" Lang, 23, and Rocky Balboa, 35, as a guest moderator. This is a match at which Lang defeats Rocky by KO in the second round. Before the match, the former champion Creed steps into the ring to greet the fighters. When he steps up to Lang, the latter slaps away Creed's hand and mockingly insists that he "don't want no has-been in my corner". He further says, "You want to jump, Creed? Jump." When Creed walks away, stunned at this rude display from the belligerent challenger, Lang laughs at him and calls him a "chicken." This prompts Creed to tell Balboa to "give everybody a present and drop this chump." Following the match, in which Lang wins by a brutal second-round knockout, Balboa's beloved manager Mickey dies in the locker room. Determined in part to put the disrespectful brute in his place, Creed finds an apprehensive and bereaved Balboa at Mickey's gym. Despite hesitating at first, Balboa agrees to let Creed train him for a rematch against Lang, who laughs off the prospect of "one has-been teaching another" during a television interview. The pair subsequently travels to the "Tough Gym" in Los Angeles, California, where Creed used to train, in preparation for a rematch with Lang. Creed encourages Rocky not to ignore the naysayers that say he is too old but instead refocus himself. During this talk, he states, "Now when we fought…you had that eye of the tiger". This quote is referred to throughout the movie, including the film's theme song, "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor. Creed mentions that Rocky will owe him "a big favor" once he wins, which he does not specify at first. Rocky's training is geared toward making him quicker and more agile to counter the larger, stronger brawler. Creed teaches Rocky his (Creed's) own fighting style. Rocky has trouble concentrating during his training, suffering from guilt over Mickey's demise and self-doubt. Adrian helps Rocky recognize this as a simple fear of losing again and convinces him that he can't let fear control his life and that he has to fight again, not to prove a point but to live without fear. Rocky agrees and begins to put his fear aside. Creed helps Rocky rediscover the fire inside, which he had lost in the time leading up to the Lang fight, that had won him the title. Creed calls this fire the "eye of the tiger".
Before the match begins, Creed expresses his confidence that Rocky will win. He gives Rocky his signature "colors" (Creed's stars and stripes boxing trunks) to wear during the fight (and tells him to wash them afterwards). Re-energized with Creed shadow-boxing in his corner, Rocky regains his title with a three-round knockout of Lang. After his victory, Creed reveals his favor—a third fight with Rocky (not as a bloody fight between bitter rivals, but as a private sparring match between friends). Rocky happily accepts the challenge. The film ends as each boxer hits the other at the same time, symbolizing the equality of their greatness. The result was not revealed until the 2015 film Creed, in which Rocky tells Apollo's son that Apollo won this fight.
In 1985, Apollo (43 years old), comes out of a five-year retirement to fight mammoth Soviet Olympic boxer Ivan Drago, who has come to the United States on behalf of the Soviet Union to enter the world of professional boxing. Not wanting the Soviets to appear superior to American fighters, the patriotic Apollo challenges Drago to an exhibition match and calls out Drago at the press conference that sets up their exhibition bout in the Jubilee showroom at the first MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada on August 31, 1985.
Highlighted by a pre-match rendition of "Living in America" by James Brown, Apollo enters the arena from a descending scaffold overhead, dancing to the music in his old red, white, and blue Uncle Sam outfit. With Rocky, Duke, and Paulie in his corner, Apollo is overly confident that he can dispense of Drago with ease. However, Apollo is not ready for the extreme size and strength of the Russian. After taunting the Russian and landing a number of ineffectual punches, Creed is pummeled badly in the first round. Rocky wants to stop the fight but Apollo refuses. Apollo adamantly tells Rocky not to stop the fight "no matter what...no matter what!"
By the start of the second round, Drago pummels Creed with ease. Rocky again tries to stop the fight by throwing in the towel. Apollo tells Rocky not to stop the fight, giving Drago a chance to deliver a fatal blow (as Rocky drops the towel causing the fight to stop) to Apollo, who dies in Rocky's arms in the middle of the ring. Drago wins by technical knockout.
An enraged Rocky then sets out to avenge Apollo's death by beating Drago in the Soviet Union, with the Soviet premier and the Politburo looking on. He succeeds as the film ends with Rocky winning the fight by knockout in the last round.
With his character's death, Carl Weathers departed the franchise after Rocky IV. In Rocky V, the fifth installment of the series, after Rocky Balboa defeated Ivan Drago, Apollo's trainer Duke congratulated Rocky by showing that he made everyone proud, especially for Apollo by holding up his red, white, and blue trunks. Apollo was thereafter only mentioned briefly in past tenses, including a flashback scene between Mickey and Rocky before Balboa's first fight with Creed where Mickey states, "Apollo won't know what hit him." Rocky's pupil Tommy Gunn also claimed to have been a fan of Rocky since his first fight with Apollo. Tommy was eventually allowed to wear Creed's trunks. There was a poster of Apollo and Rocky during the events of Rocky II in Rocky Jr's bedroom before the Balboas went bankrupt. During Tommy's fight with Union Cane, Rocky commented that it was like his own first fight with Apollo. Later, during Rocky's street fight with Tommy, he began to hallucinate and saw images of Apollo's death at the hands of Drago, believing that he was about to suffer the same fate. However, a vision of Mickey telling him to get up gave Rocky the strength to win the street fight.
In the sixth installment of the Rocky franchise, Rocky is seen paying tribute to Apollo by telling customers at his restaurant stories about his friendship and fights with him. In a deleted scene when Rocky wakes up, Rocky sees Paulie sleeping and Rocky sees a photo of his first fight with Apollo but his face is censored and Rocky's face is covered by a scrap of paper with Paulie's head. During the commentary before the Rocky vs Mason Dixon fight, a montage of Rocky's opponents is shown which excludes his two fights against Apollo.
In the seventh installment, it has been revealed that Creed had an affair sometime before his death, and from that, Adonis Johnson Creed was born. After his biological mother's death in the late '90s, Apollo's widow, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), adopts him. At a young age, not only does he possess the boxing skills of his father, but also his fiery temper. Years later, presumed to be a well-educated young man, Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) leaves his job to pursue a full-time career in boxing. He first seeks tutelage from Duke's son, "Lil' Duke" (Wood Harris), who runs the Delphi Boxing Academy. Duke refuses to work with Adonis to ensure his safety. Adonis, to his mother's dismay, moves to Philadelphia to seek out Rocky. While meeting up at Adrian's, Rocky is surprised when Adonis mentions a third fight between him and Apollo that happened behind closed doors, presenting himself to be Apollo's son. Rocky compliments his father's boxing ability and reveals that Apollo won their third match.
When the word got out that Adonis is Apollo's illegitimate son, the media heavily publicized the story of his infidelity, which catches the eye of the trainer for the reigning light-heavyweight champion, "Pretty" Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew). Both parties would want the fight to happen, however, on the condition that Adonis would assume his actual name instead of his mother's last name, Johnson, to which he agrees, similar to Apollo's desire to select Rocky due to his nickname: "The Italian Stallion". Leading up to the fight, Rocky has been diagnosed with cancer, which greatly impacts Adonis' behavior, including being incarcerated for the night after a brawl at a club. While Rocky visits him in jail, Adonis angrily blames him for his father's death, while Rocky tries to calm him down and understand Apollo, who isn't there to defend himself. After getting his mind straight, Adonis makes a pact with Rocky that they would both fight their respective battles together.
In Liverpool, Adonis receives a gift from Mary Anne; boxing trunks that heavily resembles his father's trunks, which he passed to Rocky, who then passed them to Tommy "The Machine" Gunn. The fight presents many parallels to Rocky and Apollo's original fight, with Adonis assuming his trainer's role. Conlan presents an unrelenting attack on Adonis, in which he knocks him down. After a less than stellar introductory round, Adonis finally manages a right hook strong enough to cut Conlan by surprise. In the eleventh round, after an intense flurry, Conlan manages a strong shot that seemingly knocked Adonis unconscious, however Adonis sees visions of his relationship with his girlfriend and Rocky's ailing composure, but finally wakes up after seeing a vision of his father in his prime, which baffles Conlan and the audience.
Before the final round, Rocky is adamant on stopping the fight to save Adonis from the long term effects of his injuries, a decision he contemplated 30 years after Apollo's death. However, Adonis wants to continue to fight to prove that he is not "a mistake". After the revelation, Rocky tells Adonis that, though he's never had the chance to thank Apollo for stepping in when Mickey died, it does not match what he's done for him and that he loves him. In the closing seconds of the fight, Adonis finally unleashes a style that is comparable to his father's and Rocky's, and manages to knock down Conlan for the first time in his career. A split decision determines Conlan the winner of the fight, and gives Adonis the ultimate respect, telling him that he's "the future of this division". During the post-fight interview, HBO Boxing analyst Max Kellerman asks Adonis what he would like to say to his father, to which Adonis tearfully says that he loves him and he knows he didn't leave him on purpose, in which he concludes the interview saying he's "proud to be a Creed".
In the film series, Creed is known as one of the world's best fighters, possessing a combination of great speed and strength. His powerful jab and emphasis on agility complement his flashy personality and outfit. In terms of weaknesses, his only major drawback appears to be his deep sense of pride and strong self-confidence, which allows Rocky to get an edge over him in the ring by surprising Creed.
Like Muhammad Ali, Apollo was an outside fighter, relying on his speed and power to get through fights. His jab-cross-hook combination were his mainstay, and, also like Ali, Creed's defense was heavily contingent upon his speed. Apollo used Ali's "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" philosophy, being able to slip and evade blows and frustrate his opponents. A notable difference was that though Creed had Ali's unorthodox hand positioning, he ducked, bobbed and weaved in the classic style, as opposed to Ali who preferred to move backwards, in contradiction to boxing's basic tenets, but with success. Perhaps the reason for this was that only Ali could be that unorthodox and look convincing; where most boxing instructors would tell their pupils that a punch cannot be landed when the puncher is retreating backwards, Ali did that too with regularity. Also unlike Ali, Apollo was not very political and had very little to say on social issues. In Rocky I, a reporter asked him if it mattered to him that he was fighting a white man on the most celebrated day in the U.S.'s history, to which Apollo replied, "About as much as it matters to him that he's fighting a black man on the most celebrated day in our country's history."
Like Ali, Creed was susceptible to taking a lot of damage during fights because of the level at which he held his hands, a fact which ultimately proved to be his undoing.
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|Rocky Balboa's main opponent||Succeeded by|
James "Clubber" Lang