Creed ★★★★★

Creed v. Conlan, Round 11.

Nobody thought it would come to this. It was supposed to be a lark, a 'sure thing'. Pretty Ricky should have put Adonis on the canvas for good six rounds ago. But here the kid is, not just hanging in there but making Conlan sweat. Making Conlan bleed.

These two titans circle each other, dancing around the ring, trading massive blows. Blood stains the mat, sprays on the ropes. We can taste the copper. We can smell the sweat. Donnie's face is that of unbridled fury as he unleashes the years of pent-up frustration he's been saddled with. The childhood spent in group homes and juvenile detention. The names - Hollywood, overnight success, FALSE CREED. The weight of his father's legacy hangs over him the way time hangs over his mentor, Rocky Balboa, portending doom. When will Conlan give? When will Conlan fall?

One punch.

One punch is all it takes to send Adonis crashing to the canvas. The sound drops out and we're left with just Donnie, dead to the world, arms hanging limply, earth-shaking fists resting on the mat.

He begins to see things, hear things.

There's Rocky Balboa, the toughest boxer known to man, in the grips of cancer and fighting his hardest battle yet. He ignores the pain as he wills Donnie to rise.

There's his girl Bianca, tough and loyal and independent, a musician beset by a heavily ironic case of progressive hearing loss. "Get up D," she screams.

There's his mother - not his birth mother, but the woman who loves him like a son anyway. Maybe she doesn't approve of his career, but damn if she doesn't want to see him succeed.

There's a flurry of images from recent memory. Adonis as a boy. Rocky as an old man. Bianca & Adonis, side by side. We remember what he told her: "I feel like I've known you my whole life." And then something from deeper in the past. Something Adonis has seen a million times as he quite literally fought against it, shadowboxing alone in his home theater. Something that didn't have the same meaning until this very moment.

It's a man. A man who circles his opponent, gloves at the ready. A man who grins because he's a born fighter, a man whose passion lived & died in the boxing ring that he called home. A man who was Donnie's father. A man who they called Apollo Creed.


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