Thursday, May 9, 2024

Original Rocky Movies What If Part 1

 With Mother's Day this weekend, it is logical to bracket it with boxing posts.

This makes sense in my family for several reasons as I got boxing fandom genetically from both sides.

More importantly the reason I started filming Fight Night Champion replays on the Playstation 3 was to send them to my Mother to let her see fighters she watched with her Father, or knew for other reasons. Having both of our email library capacities quickly fill up due to video file size generated the idea of uploading them to YouTube. Once they were there, turning them into these stories came naturally.

The final reason is these specific match ups originated from comments she made on other versions of the Rocky Gauntlet.

After watching one of the previous sets of fights, she indicated that she enjoyed them but always feels bad because "Rocky shouldn't lose."

And she is correct. 

We love Rocky, we root for Rocky, we believe in Rocky...
But we also have to be honest about Rocky and his fighting skills.

No matter how he trains or what he changes up, the man's entire boxing strategy involves a combination of an inhuman ability to absorb an astonishing amount of punishment...
and leading with his face.

Therefore- I propose to look at:
WHAT IF... Rocky Balboa combined a better defense (or, in fact, ANY defense) and more self preservation minded tactics with his unearthly ability to endure punishment and his killer left hook?

Before this could happen, The Italian Stallion needed to have a mental battle against his own self damaging ways of thinking. In a mindscape picture of a Philadelphia gym, Rocky licked his old habits.
In fact he licked them viciously in the body and face, taking out the "classic" version of himself in only two rounds. (Apologies for the "keystone cops" middle bit. I really need to learn video editing.)
Well, that was really weird. Lets never do anything like that again.

When Balboa is given his miraculous title shot against Apollo Creed, the champ is just as cocky and dismissive of his opponent as he was on screen. In this world, the Spectrum was being cleaned that day, so they fought in Atlantic City. Given the impact these films have had on boxing and pop culture in general, one would think EA Sports would have gotten that Philadelphia arena... but noooooo. By not allowing The Master Of Disaster to use his head as a speed bag, Rocky maintains all the power he started the match in the film with that surprised Creed in the opening rounds. 
Rocky protects himself while working off the jab (something I can actually do with left handed fighters) and weakens Creed's midsection, knocking the champion down by the fourth and out with his crushing left hook in the fifth.

Rocky Balboa becomes the heavyweight champion of the world only about ten months sooner than he did in the movies. However, that changes two important things. Firstly, that he attains his goal without having the greatest boxer of his world play the bongos on his melon for thirty rounds. Also that slight time difference means he isn't distracted by Mickey's health when he faces the dangerous Clubber Lang in his home town of Chicago.
Clubber's hooks can take a man out at any time, and he did knock Rocky on his butt in the second when the Italian Stallion was rushing to put his opponent away.
However, the new, more precise, more face protecting Rocky is able to dodge most of Lang's powerful blows while landing his own in their first and only match up. Balboa flattens Lang in all three rounds of their short fight, ending it, once again, with precise landing of his left hook in the third.

When it's time for Ivan Drago's challenge to America, it is the more in control, and much less damaged Rocky Balboa that challenge is directed towards. Apollo's star is severely dimmed after losing to an unknown, and Rocky is nowhere near considering retirement. They meet an a giant arena in Texas... 
Because the game only has one giant arena in it. Clearly they were not concerned with obsessive storytellers like myself. 
Rocky's new found patience helps but it is still an extended and grueling fight. (The Drago fights are always "grueling" aren't they?) Balboa protects himself as much as he can, but the Siberian Express handily wins the first four rounds. 
Then things turn around and by the end of the eleven round fracas, Rocky Balboa has blasted nearly three hundred punches into the big Russian's midsection, many of them well placed counterpunches that slowly take the wind out of Drago's sails. 
The Italian Stallion proves his right hook could bring the hurt as much as his left, dropping his huge foe at the start of the eleventh. Rocky then goes after Drago full force, pummeling him relentlessly until a body blow stuns him into the ropes and that same right hook returns to triumphantly end the bout.

With an impressive victory like that, and a healthy Apollo as a friend. Rocky Balboa retires by choice instead of being forced to.
Never the brightest knife in the shed, Rocky still trains and is betrayed by Tommy Gun, leading to an outdoor street fight. (In Mexico City for reasons not likely to become clear.)
Tommy doesn't fare too well against an older, injured and brain damaged Balboa in the movie.
Here, Gunn facing a healthy and calculating Rocky, leads to a two round butt kicking of epic proportions with a knock down in both rounds of the mercifully short interaction. The master finished off the student with a parade of blows to his underused noggin.

Rather than relying only on "hurt bombs," a Rocky Balboa in much better condition gets back into fighting shape easily to face Mason "The Line" Dixon. As always Dixon shows he has grit, lasting into the seventh round. "The Line"s own cautious style does keep Balboa from countering most of the time. 
Sadly for Dixon, that same style does little to prevent Rocky from belting him regularly in the face and belly. 
Dixon never has a chance on points, and falls twice in the fifth round. The wiser than when he faced Clubber Rocky doesn't try to over extend his advantage, and maintains his strategy. Rocky outpoints Dixon yet again in the sixth wearing him down to where the younger man has virtually no defense. A short time into the seventh, Rocky Balboa closes out his last fight with his most famous punch, throwing a left hook originating from his toes that nearly tears Mason's head off.

No comments: