BLOGS

From Rocky to Million Dollar Baby to Warrior: The Best Title Bouts in Movies

Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton may appear on the poster, but the real stars of the new fight film Warrior are the brutal, bone-shattering mixed-martial arts bouts that dominate the movie's last hour. After Hardy and Edgerton's brothers go up against a variety of opponents, from trash-talking punks to mountainous Russians, they've got nobody left to fight but each other for the million-dollar tournament purse. That sibling-on-sibling match-up put us in mind of the other great movie title bouts we've enjoyed over the years. Follow the fight card below to see some of our favorites. Two notes: We focused only on movies about fictional fighters -- and not just boxers, by the way -- so don't go looking for Raging Bull, The Fighter or When We Were Kings. Also, even though the statute of spoiler limitations would seem to have lapsed for most of these movies, I'm issuing a general Spoiler Warning for the four people out there that haven't seen Rocky. (C'mon... you knew, that was going to be at the top of the list.)

Balboa vs. Creed
Sparred In: Rocky (1976)
In This Corner: The humble, working class Italian Stallion who can take a licking and keep on ticking.
In This Corner: The showboating, but seriously powerful heavyweight champion.
Play-By-Play: Raging Bull's boxing sequences are more impressively stylized and Ali's are more convincing, but when it comes to sheer entertainment value, nothing tops this 15-round battle of the titans. Even today, the moment where Balboa knocks Creed down for the first time causes grown men (myself included) to jump up and cheer.
Verdict: People often forget this, but Creed actually wins the match by split decision. It's not until Rocky II that Balboa leaves the ring with both Adrian and the heavyweight belt.

Rip vs. Zeus
Sparred In: No Holds Barred (1989)
In This Corner: The beloved people's champ of the pro wrestling circuit.
In This Corner: The vicious Clubber Lang of the pro wrestling circuit.
Play-by-Play: Forced into the fight by an unscrupulous promoter, Rip is told he has to throw the match or else his kidnapped girlfriend will be subjected to a brutal beating. (This after his brother was knocked around by the promoter's minions and left in a wheelchair.) After taking a severe punishment for several rounds, he finally starts to fight back when he sees his bro bawling ringside. Pure '80s cheese, this bout does feature Hogan in his '80s prime. And his facial expressions are hysterical, particular when viewed in slow-motion.
Verdict: Good eventually triumphs over evil, as Rip takes down both Zeus and the promoter, who would likely have wound up in prison after the match anyway on charges of kidnapping and assault.

Fitzgerald vs. The Blue Bear
Sparred In: Million Dollar Baby (2004)
In This Corner: A scrappy girl from the streets who is transformed into the next women's welterweight champion by a veteran trainer.
In This Corner: The current welterweight champ, who has been known to throw a sucker punch or two.
Play-by-Play: The second boxing movie (after Rocky) to win the Best Picture Oscar, Million Dollar Baby's gripping, well-choreographed fight sequences -- like this one -- are often forgotten because of what happens in the film's third act.
Verdict: Match called on account of a literally crippling punch.

Balboa vs. Drago
Sparred In: Rocky IV (1985)
In This Corner: The Italian Stallion again, now fighting to avenge his former opponent-turned-brother-in-gloves, Apollo Creed.
In This Corner: The flesh-and-blood Russian tank that put Creed six feet under.
Play-by-Play: We had to get one more Rocky movie in here and while the Clubber/Balboa rematch from Rocky III is great and all, the Cold War backdrop in this one puts it over the top. It's a masterpiece of sheer ridiculousness, from the Soviet crowds (including a Gorbachev stand-in) applauding for the American fighter to the punches that Balboa takes to the head over and over. It's amazing that he only has brain damage at the end of the match... really, he shouldn't even have facial features anymore.
Verdict: America, f*&* yeah!

The Ram vs. The Ayatollah
Sparred In: The Wrestler (2008)
In This Corner: An aging, over-the-hill pro wrestler with a heart condition.
In This Corner: Another aging, over-the-hill pro wrestler with a successful used car dealership.
Play-by-Play: Honestly, the most memorable bout in Darren Aronofsky's deservedly acclaimed wrestling movie is the one that involves (among other things) a ladder, shattered glass and barbed wire, but the climactic match is a winner too.
Verdict: The bout has been designed so that Ram will emerge victorious, but we'll never know for sure -- the film ends with Ram suspended in air in mid-Ram Jam just as a familiar pain starts to ripple across his chest.

Mitchell vs. Revell
Sparred In: Three O'Clock High (1987)
In This Corner: A high-school dork that makes the potentially fatal mistake of pissing off the new bully in school.
In This Corner: The aforementioned new bully in school, who has a thing about being touched.
Play-by-Play: We don't know about you, but we must have watched this sorely neglected '80s high school classic a zillion times growing up. It was like a John Hughes comedy, only with a surprisingly good fight scene at the very end.
Verdict: With one well-timed punch, the dork defeats his nemesis. Nerd power!

Hutchen vs. Chambers
Sparred In: Undisputed (2002)
In This Corner: The resident prison boxing champion.
In This Corner: The real-world heavyweight champ, who has been locked up on rape charges.
Play-by-Play: This Walter Hill-directed picture happens to be one of the best boxing movies and best prison movies out there, featuring terrific work from stars Wesley Snipes (as Hutchen) and Ving Rhames (as Chambers) and a fantastic climactic fight.
Verdict: Hutchen remains the undisputed prison champ.

B-Rabbit vs. Papa Doc
Sparred In: 8 Mile (2002)
In This Corner: A white trash trailer-park rapper with a weak stomach.
In This Corner: The best rap battler in Detroit.
Play-by-Play: Sure, these guys aren't boxers per se, but they spit rhymes with the same force that fighters throw their fists. How good are the rap battles in 8 Mile? So good, we have to watch the movie all the way through whenever we stumble across it on basic cable, even with all the bleeped out words.
Verdict: B-Rabbit gets his one shot, doesn't miss his chance to blow and grabs the opportunity of a lifetime.

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