Carl Weathers’ Role as Apollo Creed Helped Set Standard for Boxing Movies

February 5, 2024
3 weeks

When listing the best boxing movies, it’s challenging to figure out how to include everything from the Rocky/Creed franchise in the proper place. Creating a top five list for boxing movies leaves a stiff group of competition jostling for position. Recently, Carl Weathers passed away at the age of 76.

Weathers played several roles during his long movie and television acting career but is best known for playing Apollo Creed in the Rocky franchise. Creed’s storyline was an arc that spanned four movies. He went from being the cocky champion and adversary to Rocky to later serving as his trainer and confidant. When Creed’s story ended tragically at the beginning of Rocky IV, the ramifications would have a heavy impact on the sequels and the spinoff movies that followed it.

It’s hard to believe that Weathers was playing professional football not long before Rocky came out. Weathers played for the Canadian Football League and had a brief stint with the Oakland Raiders before finding his way to acting. Weathers’ role in Rocky allowed him to take on many different roles throughout his career, according to online boxing news.

This list of boxing movies is limited to those that are primarily about boxing. On the Waterfront is a fantastic movie where Marlon Brando’s character plays a former boxer, but it wouldn’t warrant consideration for this list. This list focuses on movies centered around the sport and the men and women who participate in it.

No. 5 Million Dollar Baby

Million Dollar Baby is a tragic boxing tale. It is an underdog story where a trainer who is nearing the end of the line takes on a new protege, played by Hillary Swank. While Clint Eastwood’s character is reluctant to train Swank because she is a woman and an amateur, her doggedness and determination win him over.

This movie switches gears near the midway point. After a tragic accident in the ring, the final third of the movie is about the relationship between Swank and Eastwood’s character. Eastwood is forced to question morality and what is best for his friend.

Eastwood makes a tough decision, and what occurs may linger with any moviegoer longer than the first half of the film, which focuses on her boxing career, according to recent boxing news.

Best line: “Instead of running from the pain like a sane person would do, you step into it.”

No. 4 Creed

Creed shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. Sylvester Stallone returned for a new story in the franchises centered around Adonis Creed, played by Michael B. Jordan. Adonis’s character was set up as a son of Apollo conceived out of wedlock. Despite growing up with a rich lifestyle, Adonis has a chip on his shoulder.

Adonis convinces Rocky to train him. While Rocky hardly goes around his gym anymore, he is lured back to try and help Adonis win a championship. Watching Rocky mentor a young fighter and be successful while he failed at a similar task with Tommy Gunn is Rocky IV. It was a nice return for the character. Stallone was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance.

Best line: “Time takes everybody out. It’s undefeated.”

No. 3 Raging Bull

Raging Bull is a tough watch, not because of the quality of the film. This movie was one of the best for both Robert De Niro and Martin Scorcese’s careers. It’s tough because Jake LaMotta, who the movie was based on, was a guy with some real issues.

LaMotta was a fantastic boxer with personal demons. Those demons are displayed, often in gross detail, on film. LaMotta abused women, was involved in shady business dealings, and was overall a rough character. Scorcese didn’t shy away from showing off his imperfections.

Robert De Niro won an award for Best Actor for his role as Jake LaMotta. The film was also nominated for best picture.

Best line:  “I don’t go down for nobody.”

No. 2 Cinderella Man

James J. Braddock is one of the greatest underdogs in boxing history. Long considered a journeyman, Braddock won the world heavyweight title from Max Baer in 1935. Braddock was previously doing manual labor to try and help get his family through the Great Depression.

The movie paints Braddock as a humble man. He reportedly paid the unemployment office for the money they lent him when he was out of work. Braddock later went on to fight in World War II. His story is well laid out in this film, including the desperate financial straits his family was in before he was able to win the fight against Baer.

Baer’s living relatives were unhappy with how he was portrayed in the final film. They felt Baer wasn’t as much of an antagonist as the movie made him out to be, according to world boxing news.

Best line: “I have to believe that when things are bad, I can change them.”

No. 1 Rocky

The first Rocky stands out because of how gritty the film was. There weren’t many bells and whistles. The story, setting, and filmography perfectly set the scene for who Rocky was. He was a down-on-his-luck guy who was content to bum around his neighborhood before luck gave him a chance on the big stage.

While the Rocky series grew to share some similarities to the James Bond series, which gets outlandish at certain points, Rocky IV especially seems more like a cartoon. The original one understands the blue-collar nature of the story. The original Rocky movie won Best Picture and launched Sylvester Stallone into the stratosphere.

It also showed that sports movies can have some artistic bend. Boxing, especially, lends itself well to the silver screen because the fight scenes only require coordinating the movement of two men.

Best line: “Beethoven was deaf. Helen Keller was blind. I think Rocky’s got a good chance.”

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By Dean McHugh.