I’ll level with you: I’m not a person who knows a lot about sports. But I do have an enduring love for the Rocky franchise, the eighth(ish) installment of which, Creed II, will be released in November (and whose trailer dropped Thursday). As you’d guess from the name, this is the second movie focusing on the son of Apollo Creed, the antagonist of the original 1976 Oscar-winner. And all I can say is: I hope to God Creed Junior has better management than his dad.
Now, just so we’re clear, I’m not talking about Duke here, Apollo’s — and later Rocky’s — faithful trainer, played with endearing intensity by Tony Burton. If anyone is looking after Apollo, in fact, it’s Duke. He warns Apollo not to fight the left-handed Rocky (“I don’t want you messing around with southpaws, they do everything backwards!”) and a few years later, really wants Rocky to throw that damn towel.
No, I’m talking about the one-two punch of fight promoter Jergens, played by David Thayer, and what appears to be Creed’s nameless manager, who I can’t even find on IMDB and who only actually has one line in the movie. “Don’t play games with my client! Apollo’s already done a million dollars worth of publicity, has made contractual obligations with 20 different organizations, he’s not going to be embarrassed!” he lisps, angrily.
These men are very bad at their jobs. How bad? Well, let’s consider their actions. (For the sake of this article, I’m assuming that these men are also the driving forces behind the events of the sequels, although neither character actually appears in them on screen. Headcanon: It’s a thing.)
In the original movie, dollar signs in their eyes, the pair conspire with the champ to set up the event that later sees Apollo — the world famous heavyweight champion of the world! — get pounded to within an inch of his life on live TV, narrowly squeaking a win on points. In the sequel, they do the exact same thing again, only this time, he loses the belt. By the time of Rocky IV, with not much left they can do to the poor guy, they approve an exhibition match that sees him beaten to death by a man half his age, twice his height, and who is literally He-Man.
This, you must admit, isn’t good managing. What it is, sadly, is by all accounts fairly realistic. “Managers and promoters, while they want to pretend they’re looking out for the better interests of their client, they’re also looking out for the better interests of their bank account,” says William Trillo, co-founder of acclaimed boxing blog Pound4Pound. “So there are times when they take those ridiculous fights, or put their fighters in situations that aren’t conducive to winning. The movie maybe makes a little bit of a caricature out of it, but look at guys like Don King. There were days when Don had the heavyweight champion of the world, and his fighter would get beat, but since he had contracts with the other guy, Don would step over the fighter that was still lying on the ground, unconscious, to go embrace his new guy! They don’t care.”
Of course, it could be argued that all of Apollo’s disastrous decisions in the Rocky series — choosing to fight an unknown left-hander; the rematch; going up against Commie murder-bastard Ivan Drago — were actually his own, and his management just went along with them. But again, this is precisely the problem! “I love boxing, but managers and promoters are the sleaziest guys in the world,” says Trillo. “In my opinion, it’s their job to save people from themselves. They’re in a position to say, ‘Hey, you know what? I’m your manager, and this isn’t in your best interests. You’re gonna get hurt really, really badly. I can’t do this for you.’ But they don’t! There are guys who are willing to throw caution to the wind.”
So, sorry, Apollo: You were a great champ, but a lousy hirer. Again, though: Not exactly unrealistic. Do real-world aspiring world champs walk away when they start to sense their manager has more of an eye on the purse than on their client’s health? In all likelihood, no.
“Fighters leave managers or promoters because other ones are whispering in their ear, saying, ‘I can get you a better deal,’” admits Trillo. “Most fighters, as long as they believe their promoter or manager is going to find some way to get them into a world title fight to make them a champion, they’re willing to sacrifice just about anything. But as soon as they feel the manager or promoter isn’t working in their best interests to get them toward the prize and somebody else starts whispering in their ear, they’re likely to bolt, even if the stakes are higher, including life and limb. Fighters are a crazy breed, they just want that belt. And fighters have huge egos.”
You don’t say.