Rocky IV came out in 1985. So, um, do I still need to put a spoiler warning up here?
For the longest time, I thought there was a scene in Rocky IV where after Apollo Creed’s funeral the slain boxer’s widow, dressed all in black, confronted Rocky, “Why didn’t you throw in the towel? My husband trusted you. If you had done the right thing, he would still be alive, and my children would still have their father.” She then slaps him, and while someone rushes to console Rocky and defend his choice the Italian Stallion mumbles something loosely translating to, “Quick, let’s cut to a 4 minute montage set to an 80s rock song!”
There is no such scene in Rocky IV. My memory was playing tricks on me, clearly conflating the famous Jaws scene where Roy Schreider is slapped by that grieving mother with this remarkably brief funeral scene in Rocky IV:
Maybe Apollo’s widow should have slapped Rocky, though, because in the dilemma of “to throw in the towel or to not throw in the towel” he picked the option that ends with everyone at a funeral.
As you likely remember, Apollo Creed puts on his little James Brown song and dance before his exhibition match with Ivan Drago, Russia’s favorite (mostly) mute monster. Drago then proceeds to murder him in the ring, and that’s not me using an expression, like how sometimes a particularly one-sided boxing match will be framed as one man murdering the other. No, Drago literally kills Creed, delivering the death blow right as Rocky was finally maybe thinking about throwing in the towel as the universal signal to the referee to stop the damn fight.
He wanted to stop the fight after the first round, but Creed made him promise not to because his pride meant more to him than his son growing up with a father (surely the forthcoming movie Creed, about Apollo’s grown son, will explore that).
It’s one of the big movie deaths of the 1980s, and due to the way it sets up the rest of the film they could have just as easily titled it Rock IV: This Time It’s Personal…in Moscow!
But why is this completely on Rocky? Referees sometimes step in to stop matches to protect fighters who are clearly incapable of defending themselves. That could have happened here. Plus, Drago could have made that decision on his own, resisting his immense roid rage and thinking, “Apollo, my American comrade, you don’t look so good. Perhaps I’ve proved my point already,” except, you know, his thoughts would be in Russian. Then he could have turned to the ref and demanded that the fight be stopped. Maybe that act of mercy would have improved American – Russian relations during the Cold War because if he could change we could change. At the very least, it would have been a lot more endearing than, “If he dies, he dies.”
That was never going to happen, though. If it did, there’d be no movie.
But life isn’t a movie, and last week in New Zealand a winning boxer actually demanded that a fight be stopped early. Here are the details from Complex.com:
Late last week, heavyweight boxer Willis Meehan took on fellow heavyweight Leamy Tato in a match at The Trusts Arena in New Zealand that probably shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Tato was clearly outclassed during the fight from the start and, by the end of the second round, it was pretty obvious that Tato had absolutely no business being in the same ring with Meehan. To his credit, Tato—who, strangely, goes by the nickname “Tyson”—didn’t get knocked out but, at one point, his blood was splattering everywhere and some of it even landed on the camera lens capturing the fight. Yuck.
Despite this, the match’s referee refused to stop the fight for some reason, even as Meehan landed shot after shot after shot after shot after shot on Tato. It got to be so bad that, towards the middle of the second round, Meehan turned to the ref and yelled, “Stop the fucking fight!” in his face. The ref did, but he definitely did it wayyyyy too late.
Maybe if Drago said that in Rocky IV it would have been in Russian and no one would have understood. Either way, shame on Leamy Tato’s corner man for pulling a real Rocky and not throwing in the towel. On the other side, kudos to Willis Meehan. Way not to be Ivan Drago.