Creed III is the latest chapter in the greatest boxing movie franchise of all time. Directed by and starring Michael. Jordan, the movie continues the knock-out saga of the titular Adonis 'Donnie' Creed, the talented yet tormented young heavyweight boxer who is constantly forced to reconcile with the weight of his family history.
The Creed saga has itself been spun off from the classic Rocky series, which was initiated by Sylvester Stallone back in 1976. Although Stallone is absent from the events of Creed III, his influence pervades the saga's signature blend of emotional melodrama and hard-knocks boxing thrills.
It's been a long and storied journey to get to Creed III and you may well need a recap of everything that's happened so far. Ask and you shall receive...
1. Rocky (1976)
This is the movie that served as our introduction to the plucky Philadelphia pugilist. Sylvester Stallone's tenacious Rocky Balboa is introduced as a struggling, working-class Italian-American boxer who finds himself in a mafia loan shark's debt.
However, redemption is on the horizon in the form of a shot at the world heavyweight championship, currently held by Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). He then begins training under the tutelage of Mickey (Burgess Meredith). Rocky also meets and falls in love with Adrian (Talia Shire) and it's her encouragement that ultimately spurs him on.
Directed by John G. Avilldsen, scripted by Stallone himself and scored to unforgettably brassy effect by Bill Conti, the original Rocky is far grittier than the sequels that followed but still retains an utterly inspirational punch.
2. Rocky II (1979)
The events of the first Rocky culminated in Apollo Creed defending his heavyweight title. However, it's not enough. At the outset of Rocky II, he demands a rematch with Rocky, insisting that the latter's so-called skills and training are a complete fluke.
Rocky, however, turns Creed down and retires from professional boxing. He settles down with Adrian but Creed's pride is stung when he's accused of fixing the match to retain his title. Creed then attempts to bully Rocky out of retirement and back into the ring where they can settle the score once and for all.
Already struggling with a detached retina, Rocky reluctantly decides to start training again and finally re-enters the ring, albeit fighting right-handed, which threatens to leave him at a serious disadvantage. Nevertheless, Rocky prevails and wins by knockout, being crowned the new heavyweight champion of the world.
3. Rocky III (1982)
Five years after claiming the boxing title for heavyweight championship of the world, Rocky finds himself at the top of his game. Despite several challenges to his supremacy, Rocky has consistently and successfully defended his position.
Roky is then goaded into an exhibition match by rising young boxer Clubber Lang (Mr T). Rocky's belief system is shattered by his trainer Mickey when he reveals that Rocky has effectively plateaued and no longer has the strength or stamina to fight a 'hungry' young fighter like Clubber, who is far stronger than any of Rocky's recent opponents.
After an initial defeat at Clubber's hands, Rocky is unexpectedly approached by former rival Apollo Creed. The latter agrees to train Rocky for a rematch, infusing more discipline and precision into Rocky's brawny approach.
Upon defeating Clubber in the final bout, Rocky and Apollo go head to head in a private match, albeit one that's underscored by their new-found friendship and respect.
4. Rocky IV (1985)
Having fought off Clubber Lang, the reigning champ Rocky then confronts his toughest opponent to date. Hailing from the Soviet Union, fearsome man-mountain Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) possesses an iron will and fists like tanks.
Rocky experiences great tragedy when Apollo Creed is killed by Drago in the ring. Vowing to honour his friend's name, Rocky embarks on a snow-bound training montage when he flies to Russia to confront Drago once and for all.
Ultimately, Rocky is able to defeat Drago and avenge Apollo's death. In a bizarre example of sporting glasnost, Rocky is allowed to deliver a valedictory speech that bonds American and Soviet boxing fans together. He is enthusiastically applauded the crowd and the Soviet premier and his associates then reluctantly follow suit.
5. Rocky V (1990)
Rocky's victory over Ivan Drago is a hard-fought one. He soon experiences complications from the outcome of the match, insisting to Adrian that it's down to fatigue.
Rocky reluctantly retires from professional boxing only to later come across promising young pugilist Tommy 'The Machine' Gunn (Tommy Morrison). Rocky eventually agrees to become Tommy's manager and finds his life invested with a fresh purpose.
However, Tommy is eventually courted with a lucrative offer from new management and leaves Rocky behind. The former pupil-master relationship curdles when Tommy attempts to goad Rocky into a title fight.
Declining the offer, Rocky eventually takes the youngster on in a street brawl, claiming, "My ring is outside". Spurred on by Mickey, Rocky eventually beats Tommy and leaves him in the dust.
6. Rocky Balboa (2006)
Some 16 years after the critical and commercial failure of Rocky V, Sylvester Stallone resurrected the spirit of his signature character. Rocky Balboa picks up with the titular character once again pounding the streets of his home city, Philadelphia.
In the intervening years, Adrian has died, as have many of Rocky's former associates and friends. He also experiences a strained relationship with his now-grown-up son Balboa Jr. (Milo Ventimiglia).
Now the ageing owner of a restaurant, Rocky is challenged to an exhibition match by reigning heavyweight world champion Mason Dixon (Antonio Tarver). Rocky finally begins training with Apollo Creed's former trainer Duke (Tony Burton) and eventually enters the ring with Dixon.
The final outcome: a win for Dixon by split decision. However, in the course of the match Rocky has learned to reconcile with his past and his inner demons and expresses satisfaction over the result.
Rocky returns home and visits Adrian's grave again, thanking her for helping him in spirit; "Yo Adrian, we did it. We did it."
7. Creed (2016)
Adonis 'Donnie' Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) has been raised in a succession of juvenile facilities. He never knew his father; however, upon reconciling with his widowed stepmother Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), Donnie is informed that his dad was the legendary late boxer Apollo Creed.
Awed and intimidated by his family legacy, Donnie seeks to become a boxer, although his initial attempts in amateur matches are unsuccessful. Vowing to become a professional, Donnie finally locates Apollo's rival-turned-friend Rocky Balboa at his Philadelphia restaurant, named Adrian's.
Donnie successfully urges Rocky to become his trainer, despite Mary Anne's protestations that Apollo was killed in the ring by Ivan Drago. In the process of falling in love with aspiring musician Bianca (Tessa Thompson), Donnie is presented with the opportunity of fighting world light heavyweight champion 'Pretty' Ricky Conlan (Anthony Bellew).
Conlan insists that Donnie fight under his father's name Creed, as opposed to his biological mother's name Johnson, and Donnie reluctantly agrees. During the bruising final bout in Conlan's hometown of Liverpool, Conlan wins by split decision.
However, it's also declared that while "Conlan won the fight", Donnie "won the night" and the respect of the crowd. He's then informed by Conlan that he's the future of the world light heavyweight division.
8. Creed II (2018)
Adonis 'Donnie' Johnson has bounced back from Creed's final match to become the world heavyweight boxing championship. However, more than 30 years after the events of Rocky V, disgraced former Soviet fighter Ivan Drago steps out of the shadows with his son, Viktor (Florian Munteanu).
Two generations then prepare to go to war. When Drago returns to Philadelphia and rekindles his bitter rivalry with Rocky, he proposes that Donnie and Viktor battle it out in the ring. When Rocky discourages the match, Donnie turns his back on him and moves with Bianca to Los Angeles, getting himself badly injured in the eventual fight with Viktor.
Even though the latter is disqualified, allowing Donnie to retain his world heavyweight title, Donnie finds himself disillusioned, fearing he is unable to live up to his father Apollo's legacy.
Donnie and Rocky then reconcile and begin training together ahead of the rematch in Moscow. Eventually, Ivan forfeits the fight after seeing the toll the brutal match is taking on Viktor.
Rocky ultimately reconciles with his estranged son, Viktor and Ivan return to Ukraine, and Donnie and Bianca visit Apollo's grave. Donnie finally feels that he has honoured his late father's legacy.
Will Creed III be another hard-hitting instalment in the classic franchise? Find out when it's released at Cineworld on March 3rd.