Now, Rocky Balboa, five years after his big fight with the Siberian Express Ivan Drago, is battling bankruptcy and brain damage, but he does have an asset close to his heart - the gym that belonged to his trainer Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith) which he bequeathed to Robert (Balboa’s son), who still motivates and inspires Balboa in flashback sequences.
Rocky is now tempted to take up Duke’s offer to help tide over his financial woes - but Adrian (Talia Shire) forbids him, citing his health issues, she, however continues to support the family with her job. The picture of struggle and the consequences of his foolhardiness haunt Rocky, he feels frustrated that he is unable to help solve the situation. Balboa meets with almost somebody like himself, in the form of a young bxer Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison) - a young fighter hungry to learn and box. Paulie and Rocky decide to take him under their wing and teach him the ropes.
Meanwhile Robert (Sage Stallone), a growing boy, is offended that his father pays more attention to Gunn, rather than him - constant means are applied to seek his father’s approval, when this fails, he falls into the wrong company at school, falling behind in grades and telling lies at home. Balboa’s Pygmallionesque obsession costs him his time with family; he pins his hopes on the young fighter to relive the days of his past glory - a trap into which many a great have fallen. On the other hand, Duke, after being spurned by Balboa, is still seething. He cleverly strategizes to draw Gunn away from his mentor with promises of a title and money - the rookie falls for this temptation, turning his back on the man who taught him everything he knows about fighting.
Rocky fights to keep Gun from leaving, but without any contractual obligations, Tommy is free to choose as he pleases. On Christmas Eve, Duke comes to taunt him with Tommy in tow, who believes that Balboa was only using him. Heartbroken, Rocky tries to convince the youngster, who leaves. Adrian goes onto explain patiently that the kid can never possess the honesty and heart that Rocky has - this soothes him and the two find Robert, and start afresh. Duke’s new protégée wins the fight against Cane, but the crowd won’t be pleased until he defeats the ‘real’ champion - Balboa. This reaction from the crowd angers Tommy Gunn who believes that he deserves praise and appreciation.
Duke and the boxer now have their sight set on Rocky, they try goading him into a fight - he refuses, but is forced to retaliate when Gunn assaults Paulie. Rocky challenges the young upstart to a street brawl - Duke sees things getting out of hand, and tries, in vain, to tell them they should sort out their differences in the boxing ring, there is no good to having a street brawl. Gunn beats Rocky up good, but in the true tradition of the underdog, Rocky rises to the occasion, as he has a flashback of Mickey urging him to get on his feet for just one more round. This time, Gunn is knocked out.
The film reunites Stallone and John G. Avildsen, who directed the first Rocky film in 1976. Rocky V was released in 1990. Perhaps the most endearing films in the sports biopic genre, Rocky V, despite the apprehensions of critics, has withstood the test of time and the changing tastes of fans worldwide.