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A small-time boxer with a mixed-results fighting record attempts to put forward his best effort in a fight with the heavyweight champion and to thereby earn a sense of deserved respect.


Medium: Film

Writer(s): Sylvester Stallone

Director(s): John G. Avildsen

Production Co.(s): Chartoff-Winkler Productions; United Artists

In the film Rocky, the main character, Rocky Balboa, is a small-time boxer with a mixed-results fighting record who works as a debt collector for a Philadelphia loan shark. When the current heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed, finds himself without an opponent for an upcoming match, he decides to give a chance to an unknown fighter as a way of connecting the fight promotion to the U.S. Bicentennial celebration and invoking the idea that America is the "land of opportunity." After examining the list of available candidates, he chooses Rocky.

Rocky accepts the challenge, not only because it allows him to stand in the ring with a great boxer whose skills he truly admires but because it presents him with the opportunity to gain a condition of value that he has never before possessed—a sense of deserved respect. As he remarks privately on the evening before the fight, he does not hope to win the boxing match; he hopes only to do what no boxer before him has done—to last the entire 15 rounds against Apollo without being knocked out. These personal stakes at the core of his story are what make it engaging and infuse it with power. He is not a brash young man attempting to achieve glory for its own sake; he is a humble young man attempting to feel worthy of respect.

From the moment that Rocky appears at the news conference announcing the fight, he engages in efforts most of which are aligned with his vector of intent as a gain character. When he exercises to prepare his body for the fight, for example, it is not to return to a state of health that he enjoyed previously and lost; it is to attain a high level of conditioning that he has never known before, so that he will be in the best shape of his life to meet the test of fighting Apollo Creed. Likewise, the knowledge about boxing that he gains from his trainer, Mickey, represents a necessary enrichment of his skills.

His side stories, too, are filled with gain efforts—for example, in his romantic pursuit of the shy young pet-store employee, Adrian. Her affection for him is a condition of value that he does not possess at the start of the story, and his attempts to attain it—for example, by telling jokes or taking her ice skating—constitute gain efforts. And when he acquires her affection, he not only gains a specific condition of value that he has intentionally sought; he renders himself stronger emotionally and better prepared for battle.

His overall intent, however, is simply to gain a justifiable sense of deserved respect.

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