Over Forty Years On, Rocky Balboa Is Still Inspiring The Sporting World

Jurgen Klopp says Rocky films should be shown in schools
12:04, 25 Sep 2019

"If you watch these movies and you don’t want to climb to the top of a mountain, then I think something is wrong with you." - Jürgen Klopp

The Rocky film franchise has inspired millions since its first instalment premiered in 1976 and Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp is the latest person in the world of sport to profess his love for the 43-year-old series.

Writing for The Players’ Tribune, the affable German explained: “I take a lot of inspiration from movies, so whenever I needed to motivate the boys I would always think of Rocky Balboa. In my opinion, they should show Rocky, Rocky 2, Rocky 3 and 4 in public schools all across the world. It should be like learning the alphabet.”

He’s got a point - you’d struggle to find a more motivational series of films than the tales of this Philadelphian slugger and his rise from obscurity to the top.

The sport of boxing is tailor-made for the silver screen and there’s something in hitting the canvas and picking yourself up again that mirrors reality better than most sports. To quote the great man himself: “The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place, and I don't care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.”

Storyline and inspiring quotes aside, the Rocky franchise also boasts one of the most downright pump-inducing soundtracks in the history of cinema. 

Sure, Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and the Bill Conti-composed ‘Gonna Fly Now’, the famous theme of the series, may have been overplayed a bit at this point but the six main Rocky films are bursting at the seams with bonafide classics.

From John Cafferty’s ‘Hearts on Fire’ to Three Six Mafia’s ‘It’s A Fight’, there’s a whole host of boxing bangers to carry you through a run or gym session. 

Klopp is far from the first sportsperson to declare their love for the films - just last week it emerged that Rocky IV binges are integral to UFC star Tony Ferguson’s training.

Fellow fighter Jeremy Stephens, who recently spent time training with Ferguson, told Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show on ESPN: “We trained probably six-and-a-half hours straight, and then we’d take a little break. We’d watch Rocky 4 and then we went on midnight runs.”

Of course, these most famous of boxing films lend themselves pretty well to the real thing too. 

Just a few months ago, British heavyweight Tyson Fury paid homage to Rocky in his showdown with Tom Schwarz by donning a Stars and Stripes top hat and costume as he made his way to the ring, all to the tune of James Brown’s ‘Living In America’ - a tribute to Rocky’s one-time nemesis and eventual friend, Apollo Creed.

Former US Navy Seal, ultramarathon runner and all-round badass David Goggins broke the world record for the most pull-ups done in 24 hours in 2013, completing 4,030 in 17 hours. His secret? Other than a lot of hard work and mental fortitude? Listening to Bill Conti’s ‘Going The Distance’ on a loop.

“Apollo [Creed] has battered the s**t out of Rocky, and he walks to the corner with his arms raised, thinking Rocky’s gonna give up. Mickey’s [Balboa’s trainer] shouting ‘Stay down!’, but Rocky climbs the ropes. You see Apollo’s face and he’s thinking ‘I can’t believe this guy is getting up again.’

“That’s the mindset. Go the distance. That two-and-a-half-minute song powered me for 17 hours.”

Goggins, if you’re not familiar, is considered to be one of the toughest men to have ever walked the planet - we won’t spoil your food if you’re eating by posting the picture here, but if you Google Goggins’ hands after the world record, you’ll see pretty quickly how effective Rocky Balboa’s influence can be.

In American Football, Balboa’s hometown team, the Philadelphia Eagles, often use The Italian Stallion as inspiration too, and in their triumph over the New England Patriots in 2018, with the score tied at 3-3, a good chunk of the 70,000 fans in attendance at the US Bank Stadium went into delirium when an Eagles-Rocky fight song aired on the stadium's Jumbotron.

It certainly must have had an effect on the players, as the Eagles picked up their first Super Bowl win in 58 years.

Super Bowl wins, pull-up world records and providing ideal motivation for some of the globe’s most elite fighters - is there anything the Rocky films can’t do? We’ll leave that to Jürgen and Liverpool.

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