Rocky Balboa has won ten titles after winning the grueling fight against Apollo Creed. His success is phenomenal, people adore him and fame sits pretty on his handsome frame. On a day when nothing could’ve gone wrong, as he is unveiling a statue of himself, he is thrown a gauntlet by the beefy and cocky upstart - James Clubber Lang (Mr.T). The young fighter insults Rocky and openly insinuates that he chooses fighters less able than himself to fight against, he goes a step further and questions his manhood – this infuriates the boxer.
When Rocky approaches his coach Mickey (Burgess Meredith) to train him to fight - Mickey refuses. He agrees with Clubber that Rocky fought against those who had less of an advantage over him - Mickey tells him that he picked his opponents intentionally, knowing full well that the match with Creed had done more damage to Rocky than he’d ever accept. The trainer warns the boxer that he will surely be killed by Lang, who is fitter and faster.
This revelation by a man who knows him best, puts Rocky on the back foot; on introspection he begins to question if he is actually worthy of the titles he’s won. Balboa comes to the conclusion that the best way to regain his self respect would be to fight against Lang. Mickey agrees to train him, and Rocky vows that this would be his last fight. Clubber trains in the meanest and hardest conditions, whilst Rocky, flush with wealth and distractions, rents a ballroom, converts it into his private gym and throws it open to local media. This bothers and annoys his coach, who is aware that this is no way to train for a big fight.
On the big day 22 August 1981, before the fight, the teams of Balboa and Lang come to blows, and Mickey is roughed up as well - this leads to him having a heart attack. Although Rocky wants the fight called off, Mickey wants him not to - he’d be happier if he fought. As the medics take him away, Mickey insists that they wait on him in the dressing room - he wants to be around while Rocky fights.
Balboa faces his opponent, only to be beaten down by him - literally as well as figuratively, after the second round. He however, does not tell Mickey he lost; he’d rather that the old man believed they won. Sadly, Mickey Goldmill, beloved coach and father figure to Balboa, passes away at 81 - leaving a void in the lives of Rocky and his family. Rocky spirals downward into depression, one evening, as he stands near the gym that used to be Mickey’s playground, but is now shut close - he meets Apollo Creed - the opponent who once saw him as the underdog, worthy to fight a great like himself.
Taking Balboa under his wing, Creed steps into Mickey’s shoes - training Rocky to fight Clubber Lang. More than the physical aspect of training the fighter, Creed must work on Rocky’ s broken psyche that is affected by the past fights he won. In the end, Apollo is able to help the boxer regain confidence and his edge.
The two men meet again in New York City - Lang and Balboa; this time, Rocky flies into aggression, taking Clubber by surprise, but after the initial high, the younger man regains his offensive temperament and hammers Balboa. To add to the spectator’s bewilderment, Rocky continuously goads Clubber Lang into beating him up, the opponent is easily provoked, and Rocky, although beaten up, refuses to be KO - a reprisal of his fifteen round bouts with Creed in Rocky II.
After the third round, Clubber is exhausted and tired, the fight is not what he is used to, fast and furious - it is dragging on, and sapping his strength, just the way Balboa wants. The fight ends in Rocky’s favor, and he is once more the heavyweight champion of the world - and this time, he picked on someone larger than his size, not smaller.
Apollo lives out his wish, as Rocky and Creed face each other in a friendly match - the two men found a friendship over the boxing ring which is unparalleled in strength and trust. The movie is a fresh change from the predictable, we see the man behind the boxer, who struggles with his weakness and emerges a winner, it is a story of loyalty and sportsmanship, which in the end, adds to the character of an individual.
Touching, heartwarming and inspirational - the theme song ‘Eye of the Tiger’, written by Survivor especially at Stallone’s request, has become a cult classic and remains the most motivating audio ever!