Ivan Drago

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Ivan Drago
Rocky character
Lundgren Ivan Drago.jpg
Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago in Rocky IV
First appearanceRocky IV (1985)
Last appearanceCreed II (2018)
Portrayed byDolph Lundgren
Information
NicknameThe Siberian Express
The Siberian Bull
Death from Above
GenderMale
OccupationProfessional boxer
SpouseLudmilla Vobet (divorced)
ChildrenViktor Drago; son with Ludmilla
NationalityRussian, Soviet (former)
Ivan Drago
Statistics
Weight(s)Heavyweight
Height6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
NationalityRussian
Born1961 (age 57–58)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, USSR
StanceOrthodox
Boxing record
Total fights32
Wins31
Wins by KO31
Losses1
Draws0

Ivan Drago (Russian: Иван Драго) is a fictional character from the Rocky films. He first appeared in the 1985 film Rocky IV, in which he is Rocky Balboa's rival. He also appears in the 2018 film Creed II, in which he serves as the trainer to his son Viktor. He is portrayed by Dolph Lundgren. 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 6 in (197 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 was married to another athlete, Ludmilla Vobet (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!" In Creed II, it is revealed that Drago and Ludmilla have divorced as a result of his loss to Balboa and are now parents to a son named Viktor, who is also a professional boxer.

Personality[edit]

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 the U.S. perception of the Soviets: 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.

Plot[edit]

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 43 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.

After his loss to Rocky, Drago was disgraced by the USSR and Ludmilla left him to raise their son, Viktor, on his own. Following the end of the Cold War, Drago was forced to move to Ukraine, where he lived a modest life while relentlessly training Viktor to be an even more formidable boxer than he was. In Creed II, after Viktor knocks out every opponent he faces in Ukraine, and Adonis Creed wins the World Heavyweight Championship, Drago, Viktor, and promoter Buddy Marcelle travel to Philadelphia to issue a challenge to Adonis for the title. Drago visits Rocky in his restaurant to tell him how Rocky cost him everything, and threatens to avenge his loss through Viktor, telling Rocky, "My son will break your boy."

After Adonis accepts the fight and Rocky refuses to train him, Drago intensifies Viktor's training regimen adding weighted chin ups, and battle rope push ups. During the weigh in, Drago taunts Adonis, telling him he is much smaller than Apollo was. Adonis shoves Drago and a scrum breaks out between the two camps.

Viktor pummels Adonis, breaking his ribs and brutally injuring his kidneys, but is disqualified for landing a punch on Adonis while he was down. With Adonis injured and his confidence shattered, Viktor ascends to the top of the boxing world thanks to his unmatched power punches, and Drago's good standing with Russia is partially restored. Ludmilla appears during a dinner meeting, causing Viktor to storm out in disgust. He scolds Drago for seeking validation from the very people who turned their backs on him when he needed them.

Still lacking a true championship belt, the Dragos challenge Adonis to a rematch in Russia. Ivan pushes Viktor to his limit in training for the bout. However, Adonis spent his sessions training his body to repeatedly absorb heavy impact, and uses Viktor's lack of technique and reliance on power punches to his advantage. Viktor enters the tenth round with a slight lead, but begins to tire, as he had never gone past the fourth round in prior matches without knocking his opponent out. Adonis knocks Viktor down twice in the round, causing a number of Viktor's supporters, including Ludmilla, to leave the fight. Seeing that his son is unable to defend himself, Drago throws in the towel, stopping the fight and allowing Adonis to emerge victorious. Drago hugs a humiliated Viktor after the fight, assuring him that it is okay and that he is proud.

Finally at peace with his past, Ivan focuses on developing a deeper bond with his son, jogging with him side-by-side.

Reception[edit]

Commentaries on Drago often characterize him as a hyperbolic representation of Soviet power in the context of the latter part of the Cold War.[4][5] This symbolism is particularly clear in some lines in the film, including the radio announcer who says, "Ivan Drago is a man with an entire country in his corner."[6] Others have characterized Drago in contrast to Rocky, the prototypically U.S. hero, and that Drago's defeat represents a crumbling of the Soviet regime.[7]

Some, however, have noticed Drago's individualism. Toward the conclusion of the film, 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.[8]

In 2004, The Washington Times referenced Ivan in a comparison of the Soviet–U.S. 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.[9]

In popular culture[edit]

The ABC podcast Finding Drago[10] explores the influence of Ivan Drago on contemporary writers, novelists and comedians, including the novel On Mountains We Stand[11] by Todd Noy, which chronicles the events of Ivan Drago's life in the immediate aftermath of the Rocky IV film.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Definitive Ranking of Rocky Fighters". Ruthless Reviews. September 19, 2013. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
  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. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Lukynov, Fyodor (2005). "America as the Mirror of Russian Phobias". Social Research. 72 (4): 859–872. JSTOR 40971800.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Strada 1997, p. 158.
  8. ^ "ROCKY IV - THE MISUNDERSTOOD: IVAN DRAGO - Ruthless Reviews". Ruthless Reviews.
  9. ^ 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 August 4, 2014.
  10. ^ [https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/finding-drago/
  11. ^ [https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18232582-drago
Preceded by
James "Clubber" Lang
Rocky Balboa's main opponent Succeeded by
Tommy Gunn