In 1976, Sylvester Stallone shocked the whole world with the very first chapter of a tale that has conquered several generations of fans, both of cinema and sports: Rocky. Almost 50 years later, this boxing movie has turned into a saga with 7 exhibited films and one more to be released by the end of 2022.
The first movie of the franchise, Rocky, was the most successful of all by winning 3 Academy Awards (Picture, Director, and Film editing) and 7 more nominations (Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Original Song and Sound).
For sure, many boxing fans have discovered or started to love this sport by watching any of the 8 chapters of the Rocky saga. However, it may be unknown to many of its fans that there are real professional boxers that have played a character in these films. Get to know them.
Rocky's characters played by real professional boxers
In total, there are 8 characters of Rocky and its 7 sequels that have been incarnated by professional boxers. Some of them were still active while others were already retired at the time. There is a good variety: from not very recognized fighters to World Champions that have faced and defeated all-time greats.
Spider Rico. This one appeared in Rocky and Rocky Balboa (VI). He is portrayed by the Argentinean Pedro Lovell, who had a professional boxing career from 1970 to 1977 in the Heavyweight division. His resumé was 18-3-2,14 KO's, and the highlight of his career was facing Ken Norton, one of the five fighters that have defeated once the Greatest Muhammad Ali.
Tony "Duke" Evers. Played by Tony Burton, an American actor who was a professional boxer for just one year (1958-1959), in which he got a 10-3-1, with 2 KO's. He was a Heavyweight. The best tale of his boxing career was to have Jack Dempsey, one of the greatest of the Queen Division history, as the referee on his last fight. Duke was one of the main characters of the saga: Rocky and first bitterest rival and then great friend Apollo Creed's trainer. He appeared in the first six films of the franchise. Burton passed away in 2016.
Tommy "the Machine" Gun. The villain of Rocky V was played by Tom Duke Morrison. He was an active boxer when he portrayed this character. Morrison's boxing career includes a World Heavyweight title won at the expense of the legendary George Big Foreman in 1993. As his resumé tells (48-3-1, 42 KO's) he was a powerful puncher. Unfortunately, Tommy died in 2013 due to AIDS complications at the age of 44.
Union Cane. Professional American boxer Mike Williams played this character in Rocky V, he was also one of the bad guys of the film. His record was 22-6-0, with 14 KO's, during his Heavyweight career from 1984 to 2000. The peak of his career came in 1988, when faced and was defeated by a TKO in the seventh round by James Buster Douglas, who became famous in 1990 for breaking Mike Tyson's undefeated status at the Tokyo Dome in Japan.
Mason "The Line" Dixon. Antonio Tarver was the face of this character in Rocky Balboa's film (2006). Tarver had a brilliant boxing career with a 31-6-1 (22 KOs) from 1997 to 2015. He was a two-time Light heavyweight Champion and had the honor of defeating twice Roy Jones Jr., a true legend of the ring and four-division World Champion. He also fought Bernard Hopkins one of the few undisputed World Champions of the four-belt era (the current one).
Danny Wheeler. One of the best pound-for-pound boxers of Rocky's universe at the time of Creed and Creed II was portrayed by also one of the best fighters of the second decade of the 2000s: Andre Ward. The also known as the S.O.G. is one of the few World Champions that have retired undefeated (32-0-0, 16 KOs), after being a two-division World Champion, in the Super middleweight and Light heavyweight categories. In 2021, he became a Hall of Famer.
Leo Sporino. The talented prospect of Creed was played by Gabriel Rosado. The King is currently an active boxer. He is a true warrior as his 26-14-1, 15 KOs, tells. He has faced several World Champions so far as Gennady Golovkin, Daniel Jacobs, Joshua Clottey, Jermell Charlo, and Jaime Munguia.
Ricky "Pretty" Conlan. The Pound for Pound King of Creed film is played by Tony Bellew a British fighter that achieved being a World Cruiserweight Champion. His resumé boasts a 30-3-1 (20 KOs). His last fight was held in 2018, a defeat by TKO in the eight-round against the current Heavyweight unified Champion Oleksandr Usyk.