The true, longtime fans of the Rocky series have had endless debates over countless topics comprising the minutiae of every film in the series. I’m speaking from experience of course. One of the longest-running deliberations has got to be the hypothetical matches between characters who never fought in the films. Chief among those fantasy bouts, is Apollo Creed vs. Clubber Lang. Let’s get ready to rumble…
Apollo Creed, aka “The Master of Disaster,” “The King of Sting,” “The Dancing Destroyer,” “The Count of Montefisto.”
The man who was self-proclaimed to have been with the best, beat the best, and retired more men than social security is quite arguably (with minimal argument) the greatest boxer in the Rocky world. Speed, strength, stamina, style, character, this guy had it all. Not a power puncher or brawler by any means, Creed made his living on his quickness and ability to make his opponents miss and frustrate themselves. Then, once fatigued, he would zero in and utilize his stunning jabs and lightning combos to stalk and eliminate his prey. He often did so with brilliant displays of charisma and charm, borderline making you want to dislike him, but you just couldn’t. Creed was just that good. He was the type of guy you’d buy a beer for after he kicked YOUR ass because somehow you started to like him in the process.
James “Clubber” Lang, aka “The Hard Punching Battler From Chicago.”
As Mickey Goldmill foretold, “this guy is a Wreckin’ Machine, and he’s hungry!” Such was the M.O of Lang in his short career. Driven by an intense feeling of underappreciated rage, combined with thunderous punching power and an attitue to match, Lang fought by force. He strove to intimidate and dominate his opponents. Although physically gifted, he lacked finesse and poetic boxing style, and instead focused on what legendary trainer Tony “Duke” Evers would lovingly refer to as “hurtin’ bombs.” He was not the type of fighter you could go toe-to-toe with, as our beloved Rocky Balboa would find out in early ’82. But by the Fall of that year, that would change. Why?
To put it bluntly: Creed in 3. In the simplest terms, Creed was the only one who knew Lang’s weakness. Immediately after Balboa’s crushing defeat at the hands of Lang, a fight which Rocky approached like most of his title defenses, simply trying to level his opponent with heavy punches, Creed pointed out the mistake. Not in a position to get in the ring himself, he took Balboa under his wing, taught him his fighting style, changed his whole body and mind to get into the right frames to take down a brick wall like Lang, and voila! Mission accomplished. Creed would later tell Balboa that he taught him “almost everything.” Taken at face value, this implies that Creed has tools that Balboa couldn’t learn, and if applied to a match vs. Lang, Creed would surely emerge the victor. As we saw, it took near-perfect execution to wear down someone like Lang, but if Balboa could do it, Creed would do it better.