Is it just us, or do boxing movies make you want to cheer, cry, and work-out? Not necessarily in that order. From the seemingly unending well of Sylvester Stallone Rocky movies, comes Creed III, starring the fit and fine Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed, son of the deceased Apollo Creed played by Carl Weathers in Rocky films I through IV. If you recall, at the end of Creed II, Adonis of course went out on top retaining his World Heavyweight title after defeating the Russian boxer Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), son of Ivan Drago famously portrayed by Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV. It was the elder Drago coincidentally who killed Adonis’ father Apollo in the ring, so Adonis’ defeat of Ivan in front of Rocky was particularly sweet.
When we first see Adonis in Creed III, he’s a content family man and a wealthy businessman. The home life with his beloved Bianca Creed (Tess Thompson) is fulfilling. Her advancing hearing loss has stripped her of her singing career, so she’s turned to writing instead. Adonis seems to have reconciled his conflicting emotions about his daughter’s disability (she was born deaf) and the family unit includes his mother, Mary-Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad), Apollo’s wife who, despite his affair, took in, raised, and loved Adonis like her own. But not everything is good on the home front. Mamma Creed has had several strokes and Adonis is wary of her deteriorating health, a fact we become privy to when Bianca pours her a glass of wine despite Adonis’ obvious discomfort.
On the business front, Adonis has retired from the ring and is running a boxing gym. He’s training Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez) and looking for the right opponent against whom Felix can defend his title. Selenis Leyva of the movie Breaking (2022) makes a star turn as the overbearing Laura Chavez, mamma and manager to son Felix.
Enter an unexpected and unwanted reminder of Adonis’ past in the form of Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors). Who is he? Well, way back when Adonis was a teenager, he and Damian had bonded in the foster care system before he was taken in by Mary-Anne. Adonis rolled with the older Damian, an up-and-coming boxer in his own right, until one night Adonis physically assaulted a group home employee who had harmed the boys. In defense of his younger friend, Damian pulled a gun and as police pulled up, Adonis fled and never looked back.
It’s Damian leaning against Adonis’ swank car when he exits his gym one day, Damian now grown like Adonis, but looking slightly beaten down from eighteen years in the joint. As the two reconnect over dinner Adonis clearly feels guilt and perhaps doubt, for the life he now has and the dreams that Damian lost. Damian seems to have been a good friend throughout, never breaking his silence about Adonis’ presence at the scene and writing to him throughout his stretch; letters that were never returned because, as Adonis comes to find out, his mother withheld them from him. When Adonis offers Damian money, he rejects it asking instead for a shot at what he lost, his dream of becoming a champion boxer. Reluctantly and against the wise counsel of the head trainer Tony “Little Duke” Burton (Wood Harris), Damian begins to spar with Chavez eventually earning a title match against him when the chosen opponent, Viktor Drago, is injured prior to the match. Little does Adonis know that the injury was no accident. Damian’s humble demeanour is an act and the façade soon cracks when as champ he boasts about wanting what’s his. Which is what exactly? Well, Adonis’ life!
We don’t have to tell you what happens next, do we? Cue the comeback music and the training sequences. We warned you that boxing movies make you want to go to the gym, didn’t we! Adonis the boxer is back and training hard to handle his business and that would mean in the ring. To put his history with Damian to rest, he must regain the title and his belief in the fact that all that he built was indeed earned and not stolen. Jordan’s directing shines in the fight sequences where the use of the IMAX camera literally captured the beads of sweat blasted from the fighters as punches land on their ripped bodies. But the tenderness of the family moments between a black man and his black wife, mother, and daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent) also shows range and heart.
The climax of the film is the fight between Adonis and the newly crowned champion Damian with Bianca and Amara sitting ring side, but someone else is missing. Who wins the title bout? Watch and see!