In serious physical condition after the bout with Creed, Rocky enters the hospital accompanied by Adrian, Paulie and Mickey. As members of the press inquire about Rocky’s surprising showing in the ring, Apollo Creed and his entourage arrive. Creed is clearly ready to continue the fight then and there. He realizes his has not been a clear victory.
Following the fight, Rocky finds himself a genuine media personality. Although Apollo calls for a rematch, Balboa refuses. He has lost some of his vision in his battered right eye and realizes that any further attempts at boxing could result in even greater damage. Marrying Adrian and getting Paulie a job with his old boss Gazzo, Rocky sets out to enjoy the good life.
But the good life doesn’t come easy for the ex-boxer.
With Adrian now pregnant, Rocky sets out to provide her with the best of everything. Mr. and Mrs. Balboa and Butkus, one of the ugliest dogs in all of Philly, move into a new home. Rocky signs a lucrative commercial deal calling for him to advertise men’s cologne on television and begins spending money on maternity clothes, furniture and a new spiked collar for Butkus.
Once in the studio to do the commercials, rocky discovers that, in the world of Madison Avenue, honesty is not the best policy. As the cameras roll, he grapples with the exaggerated dialogue . . . finally halting as he comes to the line, “so don’t be punchy like me.” Rocky turns to the director and, smiling quizzically, points out, “I ain’t punchy – I got what ya call a relaxed brain, but I ain’t punchy.”
As a result of the ensuing argument, Rocky is fired. Now in debt, he attempts to stage an heroic comeback in the nine-to-five world. Without the benefit of a good education, however, he is turned down for every office job he applies for. Paulie helps land him a job at the local meat packing plant where Rocky had only recently trained for his match with Creed. The exhausting job is short lived. Rocky is fired as a result of a cutback in non-union jobs.
With a baby on the way and debts growing, Rocky takes a job as a cleanup man in Mickey’s gym. Reduced to such a menial position, the Italian Stallion is made the butt of many derisive jokes told by fellow fighters. He applies for a bank loan, and is turned down. Back against the wall, Rocky decides that fighting in the only world he knows. He plans to go back into the ring, despite his bad eye. He will fight Apollo Creed for the championship once again.
His wife is not at all pleased. Neither is his trainer, Mickey, who feels that Rocky, nearly blind in one eye, is setting himself up for a big defeat. He is a southpaw and a left-handed fighter is too easy to figure out. There is, however, a chance to pull it off. “To have a chance,” Mickey says, “ya gotta change everythin’. Ya gotta learn to be a right-handed fighter . . . so as to throw Creed off and keep his jab outta ya bad eye.”
Rocky reluctantly agrees to Mickey’s strategy. But as much as Rocky longs for the championship, he cannot bring himself to hurt Adrian. He knows that she hates the idea of his re-entering the ring. As a result, he trains poorly. His heart is just not in boxing. Paulie, noticing Rocky’s half-hearted attempts, berates the righter. “Ya head ain’t on right,” he chastises. “I’ve been watchin’ . . . My sister got ya feelin’ so guilty ya goin’ around all over the place. This ain’t right what she’s doin’.”
Paulie visits Adrian at the pet shop where she still works. “He’s gonna get hurt bad because of you!” he tells his sister. In an effort to combat Paulie’s hurtful words, Adrian fights back, working herself into a highly emotional state. This, combined with the amount of strenuous work she’d been doing earlier, causes her to collapse into her brother’s arms, having suddenly gone into premature labor. Rushed to the hospital, she gives birth to a baby boy, healthy in every respect. The premature birth, however, sends Adrian into a coma.
Rocky sits vigil in her hospital room for days, reading to her. Hoping against hope that she will reawaken, Rocky leaves the room only to kneel and pray in the hospital chapel. Mickey joins Rocky in his daily chapel visits and makes attempts at encouraging him back into his training. After what seems like an eternity, the impossible does happen. Sitting alone by Adrian’s bedside one night, Rocky notices a slight movement in his wife’s fingers, then a flutter of her eyes. They open. Rocky cradles her head in his arms. “I knew you’d come back,” he says, thanking God.
The next day, surrounded by her husband, her baby and her friends, Adrian pulls Rocky to her bedside: “There’s only one thing I’d like you to do for me,” she whispers. “Win.”
Now with Adrian’s blessing, Rocky works out with a passion. As he runs from his neighborhood to the Philadelphia museum steps, he is joined by an ever-growing crowd of children running behind him and urging him on. In the quiet of the night in their respective places, both Rocky and Apollo Creed reflect on their contest. They understand each other completely.
When Rocky leaves home for the right, Adrian stays behind on orders from the doctor and Paulie stays with her. They will watch on television. Stopping at the church for a quick blessing, Rocky asks only that if he gets beaten that it not be too bad. At the Philadelphia Spectrum, sportscasters recount that Rocky Balboa is a 5-1 underdog and stress that Creed wants to draw blood early in the fight. Creed’s career boasts 47 wins and no losses. Rocky has had 44 wins and 21 losses. But, they remind the listeners, Rocky was the first man ever to knock Creed down.
And with this the big rematch begins – with two unique men fighting for their very lives. Rocky fans will remember this war of the titans, perhaps the single greatest match of all the five films, with all the ebb and flow of a gigantic tidal wave. And who can forget the final moments when both fighters nearly knock each other out and Rocky rises to beat Apollo by an instant.
Rocky’s indomitable sprit wins again.