Rocky’s Legacy: Enduring Link Between the Silver Screen and Boxing

Rocky's Legacy

Regardless of whether you actually enjoy watching boxing, the sport has been the inspiration behind some of the best movies ever made. From the tragically sad but incredibly moving Million Dollar Baby, to Ali, a movie that helped to bring the incredible life of the greatest boxer of all time to the big screen, even those who would never step foot in a boxing ring or sit down to watch a bout have been transfixed by the subject matter.

Million Dollar Baby, which famously won an Oscar for Best Picture, and Ali, are two good examples from the early 2000s. More recent titles have continued the trend, including 2017’s widely hyped Jawbone, but let’s start with the king of them all, Rocky.

Rocky: The Crown Jewel in the World of Boxing Films?

Helen of Troy may be the face that launched a thousand ships, but Rocky is the film that launched a thousand boxing films (including all six of its sequels!). In fact, such was the astounding success of Rocky, that the films are still a huge part of American culture.

In fact, Rocky is still spawning new and different avenues for success, with companies such as Fabulous Bingo offering Rocky slot games that incorporate various standout parts of the film, like fighting the formidably tough Apollo Creed and allowing gamers to chase big payouts, the like of which even modern boxers might envy. The 5-line format of the game even allows fans to spell out ROCKY in order to unlock some of the bonus features available.

Rocky has also found popular gaming outlets on the Xbox – with that game allowing users to work on Rocky’s skills in terms of (among others) using punching mitts, the speed bag, and the heavy bag – the PlayStation, and a rather snazzy looking board game, all proving that the popularity of this franchise endures in pop culture despite games like Rocky Legends never quite generating huge critical or popular acclaim.

Jawbone: A Gritty Take on Boxing

The Rocky films made the world of boxing appear pretty glamorous, but Jawbone uses boxing primarily as a means of visualizing the internal struggle of the main character Jimmy, played by Johnny Harris.

Prior to Jawbone, Harris hadn’t really had the chance to hog the spotlight but his performance in this movie is stunning; if nothing else his physical transformation shows that he has the grit and determination to take on the struggle of his character Jimmy, who has nothing to lose. 

Raging Bull: A Classic for the Ages

Jawbone, which has received amazing critical responses, may well emerge to become a boxing classic, but Raging Bull is at the same level as Rocky when it comes to being a truly great movie. Although initially criticized for being too violent upon its first release, the film has slowly but surely come to be seen as a truly great masterpiece that shows the ups and downs of the central character (and is of course superbly acted by one of the true greats: Robert De Niro).

The movie, still a cult classic, was a huge boost for the careers of both De Niro and director Martin Scorsese, and highlighted that boxing can be made scintillating to a wide audience despite not having as mainstream an appeal as other sports.

Ali: The Challenge of Emulating the Master

Did you know that Apollo Creed’s character was based on Muhammad Ali? He was a man who came out with many famous quotes during his lifetime, but Ali once said: “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life”. With that in mind, taking on the challenge of acting as one of the most charismatic and talented individuals of all time was never going to be an easy feat. However, whilst actor Will Smith certainly could never claim to be ‘the greatest’ of his generation in his profession, unlike Ali, his ability to impersonate the Ali persona made this movie a really enjoyable watch.

The movie did not earn universal praise – it was not a huge commercial success and it only garnered a relatively modest score of 6.8 on IMDB – but the movie has stood the test of time among fans of boxing movies.

An Eye to the Future

It may be the case that few, if any, of the current boxers on the circuit can claim to be able to emulate Ali and his incredible personality (even if British boxer Anthony Joshua has helped to keep boxing firmly in the mainstream), but the continued thrills and spills offered by boxing, as well as the chance to use it as an intelligent extended metaphor, means that Hollywood is more than likely to keep drawing on it for story line inspiration and character development.

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