Stallone was inspired to write Rocky after seeing Chuck Wepner get a shot in what was supposed to be a rest or easy fight against Ali after the “Rumble in the Jungle” with Foreman. He overcame all expectations to make it to the last round even though he lost.
However, “The Bayonne Bleeder” could not be my selection. Yes, he actually knocked Ali down in the Ninth. (Though Ali and many viewers said it was because Wepner was standing on his foot.) After that, very much unlike the movie, Ali beat the living hell out of him for the remaining rounds, cut him above both eyes, broke his nose and scored a TKO in the last round. Wepner didn’t do much of anything the rest of the fight, didn’t have much of a career afterwards either and got in trouble for an autograph forgery con. He was later thrown out of the ring in an exhibition with Andre the Giant, which may have inspired the similar scene with Hulk “Thunderlips” Hogan in Rocky III.
Some of Balboa was based on Joe Frazier. The rivalry with Ali, being a southpaw from Philly and working out on sides of beef all came from “Smokin’ Joe.” I decided that there was far more evidence for Rocky Marciano being the best choice. Besides the name, Mickey was very similar to Marciano’s trainer, and there’s the gold boxing glove cufflink/earing in the films that was supposedly from the “The Brockton Blockbuster.” There were two points that clinched it though:
A) Fighting style. Watching old tapes of Marciano, I saw him start out in classic, if rough, boxing stance, and work as a typical infighter. Then Rocky would sense weakness, or get cut, or just get pissed off. Then he’d cock his right arm back and wade through whatever was thrown at him to deliver its devastating payload.
B) In tribute to my Grandfather, I needed to get an old school Italian boxer in there, and Jake LaMotta was only a Middleweight.
In the crazy power punch fest that was Rocky Vs. Rocky, Marciano went down and was cut in the Second Round by the “Italian Stallion.” The game then accurately portrayed his style for the next two battering rounds until Balboa went down for good in Round Four.
Ain’t gonna be no rematch.
Clubber Lang was based on the power and fury of the young George Foreman. However, that George is going to remain locked in my version of the game forever, since I didn’t preorder it from Amazon. Forgive me for refusing to spend full price on a game and instead use that money on frivolities like feeding my family.
Luckily, comeback George Foreman was available, and seeing his big ole smiling bald head facing the growls of Mr. T made for fun viewing. They both started off throwing violent hooks and uppercuts, but older and wiser Big George blocked a little more often, and stepped away once in a while. The result was a winded Clubber Lang catching the business end one of Foreman’s giant hands in the Fourth Round and hitting the canvas.
You ain’t so bad.
Based on my initial opinion of him, my first though was to pit Ivan Drago against Andrew Golota. I ended up deciding against it because I wanted all the “real” fighters to be ones that came with the game. I also thought it would be slightly ignoble to see the pride of the Soviet Union have to endure a shot to his Fun Zone.
The game obligingly supplied the Ukrainian Klitschko brothers, both Heavyweight champions. I picked the younger Vladimir and it turned out to be the right choice. Two giants in red trunks cut a visually impressive scene as they faced off in one of the longest bouts of the whole tournament. Klitschko’s size and counter punching ability held Drago bruised and at bay for most of the time. The big Russian found the measure of his opponent past the midpoint of the scheduled ten rounds, and administered a devastating series of punches leading to a Seventh Round knockout.
If he dies, he dies.
Ding. Ding.Apollo Creed (in trademark approved shorts) ended up going the distance and finishing with a draw after ten rounds. I could have continually selected “Rematch” until there was a winner, but that seemed both random, and uninteresting.
Therefore I dipped into the final two Rocky films to find a tie breaker for the two champions to face.
Initially I avoided Rocky Balboa because of weight class issues. I similarly avoided Rocky V because… well because even Stallone was disappointed in it and apologized for being negligent.
To find a tie breaker, it would be the winner of two in game fighters with ties to the final two films of the saga:
Tommy Morrison, a no frills power brawler who played Rocky’s straying protégé Tommy Gunn in Rocky V.
Roy Jones Jr. a Light Heavyweight in the game, named the best pound for pound fighter multiple years. He’s the inspiration for Mason “the Line” Dixon (even though he was played by boxer Antonio Tarver) in Rocky Balboa.
The unsurprising fight barely lasted into the Third Round. Morrison’s power was enough to stun Jones several times, even after he was brutalized, and right before he collapsed to the ground.
It’s already over.
I now had a Light Heavyweight set to face the Greatest Heavyweight Champion of all time, and his expy. The question wasn’t who would beat him, but who would beat him better?
Yes, I realize there was some of “Iron” Mike Tyson in Dixon, but seriously…under a fully lit ring with thousands in the crowd and millions of people watching at home, the man tried to EAT his opponent. I didn’t want that kind of influence on my tournament based on films that have been enjoyed by generations of families.
The two champs showed their parity again by landing about the same percentage of punches.
Apollo knocked the kid down in the first round, and two other times, winning the bout by KO in the Fifth Round.
Ali’s first knock down didn’t come until the second round. He had the same total number of knock downs but won the bout two rounds earlier in the Third.
Since they both performed almost equally, I decided that Ali’s victory let him fight whoever won the tournament, and Apollo Creed would be a regular participant. This allowed me to keep Ali in, who technically met my victory criteria, but still have two movie fighters and two real ones for the semifinals.
I figure since I was running the thing, I should be allowed creative control. I wonder if Don King started this way.
SEMIFINALS: REAL FIGHTERS:
George Forman Vs. Rocky Marciano
This was another power punching barn burner. Rocky scored early, opening a cut above Foreman’s eye in the first. Big George came back to win the Second Round on points, busting open Marciano’s eye and nose. The exchanges continued through the next two rounds. In Round Five Rocky proved himself possessing more stamina and power than Clubber Lang, rocking Foreman with an uppercut that knocked the big man down. When he beat the count, Rocky, who had both less hits and a lower percentage of them for the entire fight, moved in with a destructive series of hooks for the kill, first stunning, and then knocking Foreman out.
Big George, you’ve been grilled.
SEMIFINALS: ROCKY FIGHTERS:
Apollo Creed Vs. Ivan Drago
They spent the first two rounds trading jabs. Drago lost more health, but Apollo’s stamina had been more depleted. Apollo won those two rounds, and definitively also took the third with a series of flashy combos. Ivan looked pissed off. (I may have been reading a bit too much into these digital images.) The big Russian started the Fourth with a stunning punch that left Creed weaving out of the way for the remainder of the round, and losing it on points. Drago’s powerful jab stunned the “Master of Disaster” again in the Fifth, preventing any ability to build a comeback. The prevention continued in the next round. Ivan threw 100 fewer punches in the bout than Apollo, but 80 more power punches. He started the Sixth with another stunning straight punch that knocked Apollo down. As soon as he stood up, the “Siberian Express” was on him and flattened him again.
FINALS: ROCKY MARCIANO Vs. IVAN DRAGO
From the start it was Rocky’s hooks and uppercuts against Drago’s power jabs. Ivan was quickly bruised but kept more stamina than his opponent. Round Two was similar, with Marciano delivering a severe battering up to the bell. Rocky’s assault continued for the next two rounds. For a time they were trading blocked hooks, but the “Siberian Express” was suffering some stunning blows and getting more bruised as time passed.
I must break you.
Ivan Drago wins the title shot!
FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP
Muhammad Ali Vs. Ivan Drago
Ali started the fight mostly in charge, delivering multiple combos, and falling back to his “rope a dope” tactic during Drago’s constant jabs. Ivan maintained more stamina than Ali, but the gap was much closer than in his other fights. In the Third, the “Louisville Lip” kept dancing around and controlling the fight, but still tiring faster than Drago. The Fourth round looked like “The Greatest” had a shot where all others had failed. He dealt more damage than any other fighter to the big Russian, and actually stunned him strongly enough to lead him to a clinch to save himself at the end of the round. The round break allowed Ivan to recover, and Ali spent much of the next round blocking his jabs and again going for the “rope a dope.” (Which I’m not sure the computer can execute the effects of properly.) The champ made a valiant effort to pull it out in the Sixth, delivering many flurries of punches, but his stamina was too far reduced. Drago’s jabs eventually got through his defense, and once he was knocked down, Ali no longer had the energy to rise again.
Ivan Drago TOURNAMENT CHAMPION.
This tournament served two purposes above and beyond providing entertainment while I sipped my wine…which is a pretty noble purpose in and of itself.
A) Providing an understanding of game mechanics, specifically “the conservation of stamina,” that seemed to be key to almost every bout. (I may need to look into increasing Mr. Balboa’s to better match the later films.) Letting one’s stamina get too low vastly increases the chances of opponent finding out, “You can always get lucky, you know,” to throw in another preview geared Diggstown quote.
B) Observing and comprehending the various boxing styles. Sports video games have now reached a point where one must have a decent level of knowledge about the actual sport to succeed in them. (Anybody want to buy an NBA game for the PlayStation 3?)
I had spent enough time primarily watching…I was ready to rumble!