The Rocky Franchise’s Most Subtle Boxing Mistake Is Its Worst

The Rocky franchise brought boxing to Hollywood in a major way, but one of its most subtle mistakes is a fundamental misunderstanding of the sport.

One of the Rocky The franchise’s biggest mistakes with regard to boxing is incredibly subtle, but it undermines the true spirit of the sport. In 1976, Rocky changed the face of the sports-drama genre forever by introducing Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa and telling what has since become considered the quintessential underdog story. After Rocky‘s success, a franchise was born, spawning five direct sequels and the spin-off Creed franchise, which shifts the action to focus on the illegitimate son of Rocky’s one-time rival-turned-friend Apollo Creed.


With each sequel, the Rocky franchise fell further into a comfortable pattern. Every film sees the titular boxer go up against the odds as a perpetual underdog, with all of Balboa’s fights in the Rocky movies establishing that the fighter is at some sort of disadvantage to his opponent. The nature of this disadvantage varies from film to film: in Rocky, it’s experience; in Rocky II, it’s skill; in Rocky III, it’s motivation. It’s one of the key components of the franchise, and though Rocky is always at a disadvantage, he always overcomes the odds in some way. Importantly, though, Rocky doesn’t always win his fights, but, critically, he always wins the respect of his opponents and the crowd.

Related: Rocky’s Movie Rights Ownership & Controversy Explained

Another Rocky movie trend is that the climactic fights are never shown in their entirety. The first rounds are usually shown, and then a brief montage will bridge the gap to the final rounds, saving time but presenting what would logically be the most important part of the Rocky movie boxing matches – and this fundamentally misunderstands the sport of boxing. A number of key fights in the Rocky movies (most notably Balboa’s first fight with Creed in Rocky and his final fight with Dixon in Rocky Balboa) are won on the scorecards, and not showing the middle rounds critically undermines the weight of that narrative device. Even fights won by knockout in the Rocky movies are subtly ruined by skipping over the middle rounds because they denote the all-important thrust of the bout, which is the key to Rocky‘s underdog dynamic.

The Rocky Franchise’s Missing Rounds Conceal Critical Boxing Information

Boxing is scored round-by-round by a set of judges who decide which fighter was most dominant in any given round. Points are cumulative, and the final scorecards tally up the total for each fighter to decide a winner. However, Rocky Balboa’s victories (and losses) in the franchise coming after a fight with the middle rounds is missing is a cheap development because it undermines the most important information about the fight itself. Whether the fight was decided by knockout or the scorecards, the middle rounds are critical to understanding exactly how the fight was won – was Rocky being beaten dramatically before a sensational knockout victory, or was he consistently driving his opponent back despite taking punishment? The answers to these questions lie in the unseen middle rounds, and they would go a long way to better demonstrating Rocky’s boxing ability (or lack thereof).

With these rounds missing from the movies, it’s not clear whether Rocky Balboa is a good or bad boxer or whether he’s simply lucky. What’s more, his two narrow point defeats may have actually been bad calls – but without the middle rounds, it’s impossible to determine. Though the rounds are clearly missing in order to better serve the Rocky movies’ pacing and to introduce an element of ambiguity to the fights for the sake of continuity, they’re also one of the biggest ways that the franchise misrepresents the sport of boxing.

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