NOTE: Special thanks to my friend Matt McMillan, whose conversation on Facebook laid the seed for this essay.
A hypothetical scenario popped into my head this weekend when I was chatting with friends about the Rocky movies while discussing the boxing match Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao vs. Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios. I started speculating which of the fictional fighters in the Balboa universe, in their prime, were the best. Since my buddy Damian posted about the upcoming sequel, Creed, in his Filthy Rich Entertainment blog, it was an omen for me to continue my speculation here. I am going out on a limb and saying that Apollo Creed, at the top of his game, was the best of them all.
You might all laugh and say "impossible," because Rocky Balboa beat him and Ivan Drago killed him in the ring, but your alleged evidence is deceiving. At his focused peak, no one could beat Apollo Creed. He didn't earn the nicknames Master of Disaster, The King of Sting, The Dancing Destroyer, The Prince of Punch, The One and Only, and The Count of Monte Fisto for nothing.
In the first Rocky movie, the Italian Stallion went the distance because Creed didn't take him seriously and that near loss haunted Apollo, shaking his confidence, which led to his defeat after an epic battle in Rocky II. Don't get me wrong, I always rooted for Balboa, but if Creed had faced him seriously in his prime as a true contender, Rocky never would have had a chance.
To whom does the Rock turn when he needs to regain his edge and train to beat Clubber Lang in Rocky III? None other than Apollo Creed. Hence, Apollo would have turned Mr. T's Lang into minced meat. I pity the fool!
In Rocky IV, Ivan Drago was a clumsy puppet of his Soviet masters, needing steroid injections to power his punches. Creed again had his guard down, expecting an exhibition match, not a true gladiatorial battle that would cost him his life. He was past his best years, but if he could turn back the clock, he would have brought the giant Russian down, juice or no juice.
Does anyone really think that Balboa's other antagonists in the other sequels, Tommy "The Machine" Gunn and Mason Dixon, would have given much of a challenge to Apollo Creed when he was at his best?
As in the end of Rocky III when Creed asks Balboa for a "just for fun" rematch, we'll never know the answer to this game of make-believe, and they're all fictional characters after all. Yet, I still stand by my call -- Apollo Creed in his prime would beat them all.