How the Creed trilogy humanizes boxing
Josh Werle, Sports Editor
Long before Michael B. Jordan took on the role of Adonis Creed in the newest trilogy of combat sports movies, Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky was the blockbuster boxing breadwinner. After the release of Creed 3 on March 3, it’s clear that the torch has been passed on to a new generation of boxing films. The Creed trilogy is set in the same universe as the Rocky films, with Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky character having appeared in the first two movies. During this time, you can actively see Rocky passing on his wisdom — and Stallone his torch — to Jordan’s Creed, both in the sport of boxing and in life.
Passing the torch
The Rocky films were always about more than boxing, and the Creed trilogy followed suit. Creed is a character who dealt with much adversity — growing up without a father, living in a foster home, making a name for himself in a sport that already knows his last name, and finding his “why” that is unique and personal to himself which pushes him to fight. The first Creed film chronicles Creed carving out his own path in the sport of boxing. He moves from Los Angeles to Philadelphia in an attempt to learn from Rocky, who no longer interacts with the boxing world.
Almost out of a sense of guilt and responsibility — Rocky feels responsible for the death of Creed’s father after watching him die in the ring — he eventually helps to train Creed and prepare him for a boxing match. During this time, Rocky is diagnosed with cancer, a disease which took the life of his late wife. After battling with his diagnoses, Rocky and Creed work together to overcome their own individual battles, as Rocky fights cancer and Creed fights an undefeated boxing champion, Ricky Conlan. Rocky and Creed have their ups and downs in the film, each struggling with maintaining their sense of self, while also fighting against physical battles and helping each other overcome them.
In the second Creed film, Creed battles with his responsibilities as both a new father, and the heavyweight champion of the world. After suffering a brutal disqualification victory at the hands of Viktor Drago — the son of Ivan Drago, who killed Creed’s father in the ring — Creed has to decide whether being a father and raising a family is a possibility if he wishes to exact revenge in the boxing ring.
This film’s primary theme is family, and it examines the importance of being there for the people who you’re closest to — whether you are related or not. After facing Viktor Drago for a second time, Creed overcomes the odds and defeats him after his father Ivan throws in the towel — a boxing term that stems from one competitor’s team throwing a physical towel, indicating that they wish to stop the fight. This meant that the Drago’s would be shunned by their family for their perceived cowardice, but that Ivan had changed as a person and chose to prioritize his son’s health over his personal status and notoriety.
Unfortunately, a real-life dispute between Sylvester Stallone and producer Irwin Wikler led to Rocky’s absence in the third film. Although it was unfortunate that his character wasn’t a part of the newest installment, his legacy will live on through the impact of a character that he helped build — Adonis Creed. In the third Creed film, Creed once again struggles with his identity and his past. After retiring from boxing and becoming a promoter, Creed gets reconnected with his friend Damian Anderson, who had been in prison for 18 years. When the two were younger, Creed ran away from the police who arrested Anderson — who was helping protect Creed.
The film examines their friendship, as well as Creed’s decision to step up and fight Anderson in the ring. The primary theme of this film is running — whether it be from your past or your future destiny.
Although the Rocky films will forever be the gold standard for both boxing and sport-related films, the Creed trilogy has created an equally great story that can capture the minds of new-age fans and the next generation. Similarly to the Rocky films, the Creed movies highlight just how human a violent sport can be.