Sylvester Stallone Needed Surgery After Fighting Carl Weathers In Rocky II

With eight films under its championship belt, the "Rocky" franchise is heading back to the ring with the release of "Creed III" on March 3, 2023. Throughout the entire series, the most important and lasting relationship may not be Rocky and Adrian, or Rocky and Mickey. The David and Goliath matchup between Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed has been the constant over all these years, transforming from a bitter rivalry into a close friendship. Rocky's loyalty to Apollo after his tragic death inside the ring in "Rocky IV" led to an impossible upset over Ivan Drago and Rocky's love for Apollo led the embattled fighter to mentor his son, Adonis, in the "Creed" spin-off films. 

After all Rocky and Creed went through together, it's easy to forget the incredible abuse they dolled out on each other in the ring. After the draw in "Rocky," the no holds barred rematch in "Rocky II" might be the most brutal of any fight in the franchise's history. Not one to pull punches, Sylvester Stallone slipped into the director's chair for the sequel, determined to capture the most realistic fight scenes ever put on film. 

"Rocky II" begins right after the 15th round bell of the first brawl between the Philly underdog and the heavyweight champ, where both fighters are taken to the hospital. Rocky is cautioned that another fight of that magnitude could cause blindness. Stallone never had that level of injuries, but he did wind up in the hospital during filming after tearing his pectoral muscle so severely he could barely even throw a punch. 

'What I need is a mouthpiece for my whole body'

The injury to Stallone prevented him from throwing anything but quick, close quarter uppercuts. A story by Turner Classic Movies revealed that certain shots of the epic boxing sequence had to be filmed in tight closeups, which ended up working because the script called for Rocky to embrace his Southpaw style and fight with a left-handed attack. Because of the script change, they managed to complete the shots needed to make the fight work. 

The way both actors were going at it, Stallone and Carl Weathers might as well have been in a real fight. In an interview with Roger Ebert in June of 1979, Stallone touched on the extreme level of punishment he endured. "I got all beat up inside, I had to have an operation to splice things back together," he said. "The mouthpiece saved my teeth. For this one, basically what I need is a mouthpiece for my whole body." 

In the second part of that interview in July of 1980, Stallone revealed that he had to undergo extensive testing after he suffered broken bones along with "enlarged intestines, rearranged insides" and a significant amount of weight loss. The "Rocky II" fight was also much more extensive than the brawl that went the distance in "Rocky." "The fight's four times as long and has eight times as many punches as the first one," explained Stallone. "A lot of those shots aren't faked. It's as hard to learn not to hit somehow as to hit them."

Can Creed III top the fight in Rocky II?

When all is said and done, the fight in "Rocky II" may go down as the best fight of the series, if not for its emotional weight then for its extensive choreography and intense ferocity. "Rocky IV" is another all-timer with Ivan Drago's systematic, rhythmic beatdown of the Italian Stallion. That was the most punishment Balboa ever received in the ring, bar none, and Adonis Creed had to endure a similar fate against Drago's son in "Creed II." 

In "Creed III," powerhouse actor Jonathan Majors (who's having a banner year) plays Damian "Dame" Anderson, an old friend to Adonis that resurfaces after falling on hard times. Their inevitable falling out leads to a confrontation in the ring where Anderson finally has a chance in the spotlight after serving 18 years in prison. 

The physique of both Jordan and Majors is already next level and should help make the main event in "Creed III" look a lot more believable and cinematic. Jordan is following in the footsteps of Stallone and Ryan Coogler ("Creed") by stepping into the director's chair this time around. By early accounts (including /Film's review from Chris Evangelista), Michael B. Jordan has added some great flourishes and fresh creativity to the fight scenes by using slow-motion to enhance some punches and body blows. There's also a show-stopping moment when the entire crowd disappears to leave Creed and Damian alone to face each other to deal with their complicated history head on. 

The final fight of "Creed III" (and possibly the entire franchise?) may not match the raw physical intensity that Stallone and Weathers accomplished in "Rocky II," but it could be one of the most visually stunning fight sequences the series has ever seen.