“See this guy here? That’s the toughest opponent you’re ever going to have to face. I believe that’s true in the ring and I think that’s true in life.” Rocky to Donnie Johnson “Creed” (Creed)

When I was five years old, there was a particular summer weekend where my mother was away and my father had my younger sister and I home under his guard. This particular weekend, we had torrential rain and monstrous thunderstorms. Thus, we were stuck inside. On day two, as my sister napped, my dad (perhaps not knowing what the hell to do with me) said, “Sit down and watch this with me.” It was Rocky IV. We lived in a small ranch, but our basement was finished and massive so we hunkered down, put the VHS in and hit play. I did not say a word for the entire 90 minutes. I could barely eat my popcorn. My jaw dropped to the floor like Ivan Drago’s. I was mesmerized; both by the amazing film and the strength of characters — of course physically, but specifically how determined Rocky Balboa was to literally move mountains.

At the conclusion, we stared blankly at the rolling credits listening to “Eye of the Tiger.” My father then turns to me and says, “Don’t ever give up.” That was it. That was all he had to say. One of the greatest lesson I’ve ever learned came from that moment. Thanks in part to the horrific weather, in part to my father’s great plan for the day, but mostly because of this character — Rocky Balboa. Don’t ever give up — such a simple phrase, yet all the same so powerful and it made so much sense after watching Rocky IV. You want it? Go get it. Believe it and it will happen.

Needless to say, in the coming weeks I then watched Rocky I, II and III. All with my father. When Rocky V and Rocky Balboa came out, we were first in line. All so incredible and all so motivational. Just like the story of how Sylvester Stallone landed getting Rocky made in the first place and then starring in it. As a struggling actor he had the fortitude to say, “You want this film? You have to take me too.”

“Maybe the only thing I can do is just take everything he’s got. But to beat me, he’s going to have to kill me. And to kill me, he’s gonna have to have the heart to stand in front of me. And to do that, he’s got to be willing to die himself. I don’t know if he’s ready to do that.” — Rocky to Adrian (Rocky IV)

Rocky Balboa is all heart in everything he does in life. When he loves, he loves hard, just like when the southpaw hits. He demands the best for himself and others he cares about. I believe fans of the films see Stallone as the real life Balboa. Fictional? It’s debatable. Maybe Stallone did not actually knock out Clubber Lang (Mr. T) or get up one second before Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), but he made these films happen. He created this relatable, otherworldly character made of stone — 40 years strong now.

We all know how each film ends. The fight results are certainly part of the glory, but’s it the journey on how Balboa got there and brought others along with him that is the real lesson. There are themes — believing in yourself, courage, mental toughness, love, passion, giving 110% all the time, making it happen, being accountable. No Pain. One of the best promotional posters reads — His Whole Life Was a Million to One Shot.

original art by Ernie Barnes

Some more Inspirational Rocky Balboa quotes:

“It really don’t matter if I lose this fight. It really don’t matter if this guy opens my head, either. ’Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody’s ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I’m still standin’, I’m gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I wasn’t just another bum from the neighborhood.” Rocky to Adrian (Rocky I)

“I ain’t goin down no more.” Rocky to Mick (Rocky II)

“No, no, no, he’s not getting killed he’s getting mad.” Paulie to Apollo (Rocky III). Not sure why, but I LOVE that one!

“Don’t tell me what you think. Go out there and do it Rock, eye of the tiger.” Apollo to Rocky(Rocky III)

“Nobody owes nobody nothin’. You owe yourself.” Rocky to Paulie (Rocky III)

“Going in one more round when you don’t think you can — that’s what makes all the difference in your life.” Rocky to his son (Rocky IV). One more round.

“It ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.” Rocky to his son (Rocky Balboa)

Stallone did not win the trophy on Sunday night, but he went the distance. He and Balboa have won the hearts of millions over the years; inspiring so many to be themselves and reach their dreams. That’s the real win.There are endless personal stories to share. The Balboa story line is an unparalleled one. He had his hardships. He got knocked down. A lot. But he always go up. He always kept swinging and made sure anyone who was a long for the ride did so too. With the lovely Adrian in his corner, you felt like he owned the world “There’s one thing I want you to do for me. Win. Win.” — Adrian to Rocky (Rocky II)

Nothing was given. It was all earned. Something every person should learn early on in life. Maybe even at five years old.

Stallone had this to say via his Instagram yesterday, “To all the “real Rocky’s” of the world, Please hang on to your dreams, NEVER GIVE IN, NEVER GIVE OUT, NEVER GIVE UP! Thanks for the support.”

No — thank you champ. Rocky Balboa continues to inspire us as human beings to be great. There is no one else like him. I believe that’s true in the ring and I think it’s true in life.

  • By the way, my father and I (huge NY Giants fans) went to Super Bowl 42 in Arizona. On the plane ride, Rocky IV was on. How fitting…. That’s exactly what happened in the football game the next day. Rocky Balboa chopped down Ivan Drago.

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