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It's been sometime since I saw Rocky, but I remember being confused by the ending.

The fight ends by both of them grabbing each other, and the referee pulling them apart. Rocky then goes looking for Adrian (his girlfriend), ignoring everyone who is trying to talk to him.

But who won the match, and what does the ending mean? Why was there no clear winner?

  • It's a common ending to a boxing match. Winner by decision of the judges. This happens when both fighters last for the duration of the scheduled rounds. – Reactgular Aug 22 '13 at 16:39
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More than anything the end of Rocky illustrates that Rocky has "gone the distance" (all 15 rounds of the fight). That's all he wanted. He didn't care if he lost, (which he did. Apollo is the victor by points in this match) only that he didn't loose by knock-out. He is elated that he "went the distance" and proved to Adrian that he had what it takes to go the distance. He's looking for Adrian because he want to celebrate this victory with her. Nothing else is important. This is why he doesn't care about having a rematch. He was never interested in winning the fight. He was only interested in "not being another bum from the neighborhood".

The need for "going the distance" as the main goal for Rocky as the protagonist is exposed in the lyrics to the theme song (albeit Rocky III) Eye of the Tiger by Survivor

Went the distance, now I'm back on my feet Just a man and his will to survive

and in a monologue he delivers to Adrian:

Ah come on, Adrian, it's true. I was nobody. But that don't matter either, you know? 'Cause I was thinkin', it really don't matter if I lose this fight. It really don't matter if this guy opens my head, either. 'Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody's ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I'm still standin', I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood.

This monologue sets up the meaning of the end of the movie. The movie ends with the most important moment of Rockys life. Rocky is on top, because he's gone the distance and proven that he was not just another bum from the neighborhood.

  • 4
    While it doesn't change anything in the validity, it should still be noted that Eye of the Tiger was the theme song for Rocky III and not for Rocky. – Napoleon Wilson Aug 22 '13 at 15:57
  • good point @ChristianRau. That's probably why it's past tense: WENT the distance. Thanks for catching that. I made the edit. – Ben Plont Aug 22 '13 at 16:02
  • Hah, and in fact just yesterday I stumbled across this song again (a song I like very much) and this line immediately reminded me of your answer and the characteristic "go the distance" quote. I was nearly urged to put a comment on here about this, nice that you had the same idea. – Napoleon Wilson Aug 22 '13 at 16:06
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There was no clear winner by KO. But also by points there wasn't a clear winner, but the movie still clearly shows that one of the three point judges (don't know how they're called or how they're actually deciding at all) decided in favour of Rocky and two in favour of Apollo, so it was an extremely close call but Apollo won by points.

But in fact it doesn't matter who won the match. Rocky has proved himself and he has shown that he can stand against Apollo. For the whole movie nobody believed in him and Apollo Creed took this whole fight as a mere show-fight, where he could pretend to give an outsider a chance, but he never took Rocky serious, until the actual fight. So the fact who's the actual winner doesn't matter so much and Rocky doesn't even care. All he cares is that he stood his ground and proved to be an equal match for Apollo Creed. Now he just wants his peace with Adrian, which is also why he ignores everybody else. At this moment all those reporters and the actual sports success doesn't count, his love for Adrian does. This is also shown in his final conversation with Apollo at the end of the fight, when both exhaustedly say to each other:

Apollo: Ain't gonna be no rematch!

Rocky: Don't want one.

Apollo (not even listening): Ain't gonna be no rematch!

So Apollo is in the end just happy that this fight, which he expected to be a piece of cake, is finally over and he didn't completely lose to this outsider. But Rocky is as happy as well and doesn't want a rematch fight to "officially" win against Apollo. He has done his best and for himself he has won in a way.

This rather tie ending (when seen from a mere objective sports perspective) gives the movie a much more down-to-earth feel, I think. Rocky doesn't just magically knock Apollo out, but neither does he go down as everybody expected. He just did his best and proved his value against all odds, nothing less and nothing more.

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    Rocky wasn't after a close call. He was after "going the distance". He didn't care if he lost by a landslide, only that he could take the beating Apollo was definitely going to hand him, but be still standing at the end of all 15 rounds. – Ben Plont Aug 21 '13 at 1:21
  • @BenPlont Yeah, didn't say anything contrary to that did I? – Napoleon Wilson Aug 21 '13 at 1:25
  • @ChristianRau you said "all that mattered was that it was a close call", that didn't actually matter at all. – Ben Plont Aug 21 '13 at 1:27
  • @BenPlont Well, I regard that close call being that he stood until the end. Being not that experienced in boxing, the possibility of him standing all rounds and losing house high didn't really come to my mind. But nevermind, since I don't remember the movie too well, I also won't change my answer to include your valid points, as that wouldn't be my answer anymore at all. While you are right and your answer is probably better, I just have to take that downvote, since at the moment of answering I felt this was a good one, even if yours came out to be better in the end. – Napoleon Wilson Aug 21 '13 at 1:31
  • You have a good answer. My only issue is with "and that's also all that matters for Rocky himself". I think you have a valid point that it matters to the outcome, but it not "all that matters". I'd like to upvote but the site is locking my downvote, I can't change my vote unless the answer is edited. Please accept my apologies. – Ben Plont Aug 21 '13 at 1:38
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There was a clear winner. In the background, as Adrian is trying to get to him, and they come together, you can hear the ring announcer saying that there was a split decision (the judges not all agreeing on the outcome), and then you see Apollo celebrating his win.

But the fact that it's all background shows that the win or loss has become secondary to all the stuff pointed out by the other answerers.

But there was a winner, and it was shown in the movie.

The judges scored it 8-7 Creed, 8-7 Balboa, and 9-6 for Creed (rounds won).

Rocky Movie Clip (sorry about the ad, start at 1:29 if the link doesn't do so automatically)

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