The year is 1985, and a Russian fighter Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) with his wife Lumdilla (Brigitte Nielsen), a champion swimmer and a coach at a guest boxing championship match, arrive in the US.
It is believed that Drago has been scientifically trained by the Soviets and is called the ‘Siberian Express’ by the Russians. The boxer’s manager Nicolai Koloff (Michael Pataki) leaves no stone unturned to sell Drago’s macho image to the Americans, exhibiting it to be the hallmark of Soviet perfectionism.
Foe turned friend Apollo Creed, although he has been out of the ring for several years, challenges Drago to an exhibition bout - against Balboa’s reservations. The match takes place in Vegas to the background of ‘Living in America’. Not prepared for the Russian’s steely defense and rock solid physical fitness to get in the way - Apollo is in for a surprise. His blows have no effect on the Siberian Express, who remains calm and unaffected - even warning Creed that he will lose, after the first round.
Drago cites safety concerns and decides that the best place for the match would be his homeland - Moscow. Rocky agrees to fight the Russian in a fifteen bout round on Christmas Day. Meanwhile, Creed’s trainer Duke (Tony Burton) decides to train Rocky in far off Russia, sans Adrian and Rocky Jr. Accompanying them is Paulie (Burt Young), his brother-in-law. Those were the days when the Iron Curtain was still in place, and as expected, Balboa has to rough it out, and trains despite the vagaries of Nature stacked up against him. His perseverance is rewarded when his wife Adrian (Talia Shire) comes to visit him.
In order to put him on the back foot, the Russian is introduced to the audience with a lot of pomp and fanfare. When the bout begins, Rocky is crushed by the strength, stealth and skill of the Russian.
In a crazy blood bath lasting twelve rounds, Rocky maintains his secure stance, and the crowd admires his resilience against the bigger opponent. The loss of home support ruffles Drago’s calm demeanor, he roughs up his manager. Ivan loses his cool and this becomes his undoing- as Rocky delivers a KO punch in the fifteenth round.
Although the film eluded praise from critics, yet it has endured over the years, endearing fans of all ages. It has also been hailed as one of the few sports biopic with such lasting appeal. The movie ends with a politically correct Rocky Balboa mumbling ‘If I can change, and you can change, then everybody can change.’