Ivan Drago

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Ivan Drago
Rocky character
Lundgren Ivan Drago.jpg
Portrait of Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago
First appearanceRocky IV (1985)
Portrayed byDolph Lundgren
Nickname(s)The Siberian Express
The Siberian Bull
Death from Above
OccupationProfessional boxer
Spouse(s)Ludmilla Vobet Drago
Ivan Drago
Height6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
BornMoscow, Russian SFSR, USSR
Boxing record
Total fights32
Wins by KO31

Ivan Drago (Russian: Иван Драго) is a fictional character in the 1985 film Rocky IV, in which he is Rocky Balboa's rival and the main antagonist. He is portrayed by Dolph Lundgren. Like the Clubber Lang character from Rocky III, the character and his catchphrases have gone on to inspire multiple mentions in popular culture, including in the Family Guy episodes "Brian Goes Back to College" and "Something, Something, Something, Dark Side", the Chuck episodes "Chuck Versus the Final Exam" and "Chuck Versus the Anniversary", and the film Disaster Movie. A poll of former heavyweight champions and prominent boxing writers ranked Drago as the third-best fighter in the Rocky film series.[1]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Ivan Drago is an Olympic gold medalist[2] and an amateur boxing champion from the Soviet Union, who had an amateur record of 100–0–0 wins (100 KO). He is billed at 6 ft 5 in (196 cm) and 261 pounds (118 kg). Drago is carefully fitted and trained to be the consummate fighter. His heart rate and punching power are constantly measured via computers during his workouts.[3] Drago is seen receiving intramuscular injections in the movie, implied to be anabolic steroids, though the actual nature of the injected solution is never explicitly stated.[2]

Drago is married to another athlete, Ludmilla Vobet Drago (Brigitte Nielsen), who is mentioned to be a double gold medalist in swimming. She is much more articulate than Drago, who seldom talks, and always speaks on his behalf at press conferences and interviews. She dismisses allegations of Drago's steroid use, explaining her husband's freakish size and strength by saying, "he is like your Popeye. He eats his spinach every day!".


Unlike the flamboyant Apollo Creed and the brash James "Clubber" Lang—Rocky's opponents in previous films—Ivan Drago is quiet and non-boastful. Driven by his desire to be the best at all costs, this single-minded manner in which he pursues this goal deprives him of his humanity. Many viewers and critics have suggested that Drago was meant to symbolize America's perception of Russia: immense, powerful, and emotionless. This is made evident by his cold-blooded pulverization of Creed in an exhibition match as well as by his callous reaction towards news of his opponent's death. Drago generally allows his wife and trainers to talk on his behalf to the press. The character only speaks short sentences, throughout the film, all terse, short statements.

He speaks English four times in the film plus a few short words in the final round:

  • [To Apollo], "You will lose."
  • [during victory speech], "I cannot be defeated; I defeat old man." (cut) "Soon... I defeat real Champion." (cut) "If he dies, he dies."
  • [To Rocky], "I must break you."
  • [To Rocky], "To the end."
  • [To Rocky], (Small phrases in the final round) "Come On!". "Fight!". "Fight!".

And Russian twice (not including short phrases, e.g. "привет" or "давай"):

  • [To his trainer in Russian], "Он не человек, он как кусок железа." ("He's not human, he's like a piece of iron.")
  • [To his informant and the Soviet politburo], "Я бьюсь за победу! Для себя! Для себя!" ("I fight to win! For me! For me!")


In Rocky IV, Drago's trainers, Sergei Igor Rimsky (George Rogan) and Manuel Vega (James "Cannonball" Green), along with his wife Ludmilla (Brigitte Nielsen), are convinced that he can defeat any boxer. Drago enters professional heavyweight boxing in the beginning of the movie.

Former champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), now 42 years old, comes out of retirement to challenge Drago to an exhibition match, promoted by Creed's former rival Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Creed arrives to the ring wearing his signature Stars & Stripes boxing garb to "Living in America," sung by James Brown, dancing upon a huge stage that is lowered into the ring. Before the match begins, Drago mutters "You will lose."

At the beginning of the fight, a confident Apollo gives Drago a couple of punches while dancing around the Soviet boxer. But then Drago connects with violent punches and from then, Apollo is no match for the Russian fighter. Drago even continues to attack Creed after the bell is rung to end the round, despite this being an exhibition match instead of a professional one. In Apollo's corner, Rocky contemplates whether to throw in the towel and surrender the fight (against Creed's earlier instructions), but instead he decides to hold onto the towel. Defenseless, Apollo continues to absorb blows to the head until Drago finally kills him with a final blow to the head.

Drago exhibits no remorse about what happened to the former champion, simply stating in an interview after the fight that "if he dies, he dies." To avenge Apollo's death, Rocky travels to the Soviet Union to fight Drago on his home turf in Moscow. The fight eventually becomes a long, drawn-out war between Rocky and Drago, and to everyone's shock, Rocky manages to severely damage Drago, and the crowd begins to cheer for Rocky, whereas at the start of the fight, they were hostile to him. Drago's trainer—a Soviet/East German official—insults him, claiming that by allowing an American to fight so admirably on Russian soil, Drago is disgracing the Soviet Union. The enraged Drago grabs him by the throat, throws him out of the ring, and proclaims he only fights for himself. Immediately preceding the final round, Rocky and Drago meet in the center of the ring where the two men touch gloves as Drago says to Rocky, "To the end." Rocky defeats Drago by KO in the 15th and final round in a dramatic ending.

In Rocky V, it is revealed that the pain Drago inflicted on Rocky left Rocky with brain damage (specifically diagnosed as cavum septi pellucidi (CSP)), causing him to mistake people, see visions and various other things. During Rocky's fight with Tommy Gunn, Rocky sees visions of Drago killing Apollo while believing he is about to suffer the same fate at Tommy's hands, until a vision of Mickey inspired him to get up and defeat Tommy.

According to Rocky: The Ultimate Guide, Drago was not permitted to resume his boxing career after his loss to Rocky Balboa because of the special circumstance that he could not officially turn pro in the USSR. Drago turned professional after the fall of the Soviet Union and accumulated a record of 31-0 (31 KO) while also winning a portion of the Heavyweight title. He never unified the title or fought the very top contenders (as a professional) because of promotional politics.

Creed II[edit]

On July 6, 2017, Stallone teased images on his Instagram about a confrontation between Adonis Creed, son of Apollo, and Ivan Drago hinting that a film could be in the works.[4] Stallone on July 21, 2017 confirmed that he had finished writing the script for the sequel to 2015's Creed, which will see Dolph Lundgren reprising his role as Ivan Drago from Rocky IV.[5] A photo of Lundgren as Drago atop the "Rocky Steps" surfaced in March.[6]


Commentaries on Drago often characterize him as a hyperbolic representation of Russian power in the context of the latter part of the Cold War.[7][8] This symbolism is particularly clear in some lines in the film, like the radio announcer who says, "Ivan Drago is a man with an entire country in his corner."[9] Others have characterized Drago in contrast to Rocky, the prototypically American hero, and that Drago's defeat represents a crumbling of the USSR.[10]

Some, however, have noticed Drago's individualism. Toward the conclusion of the movie, when Drago is confronted by a Communist Party functionary, this fighter from the collectivist USSR screams at the top of his lungs, "I fight to win FOR ME!! FOR ME!!!" Drago wants to win, but not for the crowd, not for the nation, not for the communist party, not for the Politburo. He wants to win for himself.[11]

In 2004, The Washington Times referenced Ivan in a comparison of the American–Soviet Olympic rivalry of the Cold War: "Nationalism makes the Olympics worth watching. Jingoism makes them worth caring about." The Times's Patrick Hruby noted that without an embodiment of the rivalry like Ivan Drago, the Olympics were not as fun.[12]


  1. ^ September 19, 2013 (2013-09-19). "The Definitive Ranking of Rocky Fighters". Ruthless Reviews. Retrieved 2016-02-18.
  2. ^ a b Michael J. Strada and Harold R. Troper. Friend or foe?: Russians in American film and foreign policy, 1933-1991 (Scarecrow Press, 1997) ISBN 0-8108-3245-3
  3. ^ Edward W. L. Smith Not just pumping iron: on the psychology of lifting weights (C.C. Thomas, 1989) ISBN 978-0-398-05544-8
  4. ^ "Sylvester Stallone Teases an Ivan Drago Angle for 'Creed 2'".
  5. ^ "Drago Confirmed for Creed II as Stallone Finishes Script". 21 July 2017.
  6. ^ "Creed 2: first look at Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago". 16 March 2018.
  7. ^ Lee, Christina (2005). "Lock and Load(up): The Action Body in The Matrix". Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies. 19 (4): 560. doi:10.1080/10304310500322909.
  8. ^ Lukynov, Fyodor (2005). "America as the Mirror of Russian Phobias". Social Research. 72 (4): 859–872. JSTOR 40971800.
  9. ^ Strada, Michael J.; Troper, Harold R. (1997). Friend Or Foe?: Russians in American Film and Foreign Policy, 1933-1991. Scarecrow Press. p. 157. ISBN 0810832453.
  10. ^ Strada 1997, p. 158.
  11. ^ "ROCKY IV - THE MISUNDERSTOOD: IVAN DRAGO - Ruthless Reviews". Ruthless Reviews.
  12. ^ Hruby, Patrick (August 19, 2004). "Where Have You Gone, Ivan Drago? Former Villain Russia Is Just Another Olympic Player Now". The Washington Times (Washington, DC). Retrieved 4 August 2014.
Preceded by
James "Clubber" Lang
Rocky Balboa's main opponent Succeeded by
Tommy Gunn