Credit: Everett Collection

For those of you who want to see Creed but haven’t seen Rocky, well, you should see Rocky. It’s a classic.

But just in case you didn’t watch all the way through Rocky IV, or if you need a brief refresher on Apollo Creed before meeting his son, we’re here to help. After all, you can’t see Creed without knowing what the name represents.

With that in mind, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about Apollo Creed, the Master of Disaster, the King of Sting, The Count of Monte Fisto.

He was the heavyweight boxing champion of the world before Rocky Balboa. Simply put, Rocky wouldn’t have had a career if it weren’t for Apollo. It wasn’t until a top-ranked challenger backed out on fighting Apollo at the last minute that he decided it would be a good publicity stunt if he took on a no-name underdog. He chose Rocky because he liked his fighting name, The Italian Stallion. But surprisingly, once they got in the ring, Rocky put up a real fight. He decked the champ in the first round, and became the first fighter to go all 15 rounds with Creed. Rocky lost by split decision.

Rocky took the belt from Apollo. After Apollo spent a fair amount of time running his mouth, as he was known to do, Rocky finally agreed to a rematch, despite the fact that the bout with Apollo nearly left him blind in one eye. Their second fight was another slugfest, and both exhausted fighters went down simultaneously in the 15th round. Whichever one of them could get back on his feet first would be the champ … and that was Rocky. (After that fight, Apollo would retire.)

Apollo trained Rocky for his comeback. When Rocky decided to take on Clubber Lang without the proper amount of training, he not only lost his belt, but he lost his longtime trainer, Mickey, who died. Seeing an opportunity, Apollo stepped in and offered to train Rocky back into fighting shape for his rematch with Lang.

He trained in Los Angeles. To get Rocky out of his doldrums, Creed dragged him to his old stomping grounds at Tough Gym in Los Angeles, where he had his start as a boxer. It was there that he got Rocky back into fighting shape, and when the time came, Rocky beat Clubber Lang while wearing Creed’s signature red-white-and-blue boxing trunks — the same shorts he’d worn in his first fight against Rocky.

He and Rocky DID fight a third time. After Rocky knocked out Lang to regain his title, Apollo asked for a favor in exchange for his training. Apollo wanted another rematch. It wasn’t an official fight. There weren’t any cameras involved. But for Apollo, losing to Rocky by one second was something he never got over. So he needed to know, once and for all, which of them was the better fighter. Psst… in Creed, we finally learn the results of that fight.

Apollo died in the ring. Retirement never quite sat right with Apollo, so after five years out of the ring, he decided to take on Ivan Drago, the first professional boxer from the Soviet Union, in what was intended to be friendly exhibition. So with Rocky in his corner, Apollo took on the towering Russian, who went from sports curiosity to deadly serious with a series of haymakers that spilled Apollo’s blood all over the ring. When it seemed like the fight was turning into a slaughter, Apollo made Rocky promise that he wouldn’t stop the fight. “No matter what” were Apollo’s last words. He’d fall at the hands of Drago only moments later. His death would then spur Rocky out of retirement. (Spoiler: Rocky would go on to defeat Drago and end the Cold War.)

He loved nothing more than a good show. For his final exhibition fight against Drago, Apollo had James Brown perform “Living in America” as he made his entrance. So yeah, he loved attention. (And he never missed an opportunity to make money.)

Rocky’s son called him “Uncle Apollo.” Rocky and Apollo might’ve started out as opponents, but they grew to become close friends. Not only did Rocky’s son call Apollo “uncle,” but Rocky spoke at Apollo’s funeral.

Carl Weathers approves of the new Creed. Weathers was a professional football player before he got into acting, so he certainly looked the part. Ken Norton, an actual boxing champ, had dropped out of the role shortly before Rocky went in to production, and the list of actors who resemble heavyweight champions of the world is short. As Sylvester Stallone told Stephen Colbert recently, he knew he picked the right Apollo Creed when Weathers interrupted his audition to tell producers that it would be a lot better if they could get a real actor to read the lines of Rocky — instead of the then-unknown Stallone, who also wrote the script. Stallone saw right then and there that Weathers had the arrogance and the contempt that the character required. Weathers recently tweeted to Michael B. Jordan on Friday, “You did well for the CREED name! Congrats on [a] great job, my friend. May your success continue.”

Creed opens in theaters today.

Rocky spinoff
  • Movie
  • 95 minutes