PHILADELPHIA—In the wake of last month's shocking revelation that actor Sylvester Stallone had been caught with the illegal human growth hormone Jintropin at an Australian airport, the World Boxing Association, in a joint decision with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Screen Actors Guild, has overturned the uplifting, feel-good endings of Rocky II, III, and IV, sources said Monday.
"This is a sad day for fictional boxing," WBA president Gilberto Mendoza said. "Like many moviegoers, I was deeply touched by Rocky Balboa's story: a street thug from Philadelphia who, when given the chance of a lifetime, was able to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds in the pursuit of his dream. Now we learn that the entire underdog fantasy was based on a lie."
Academy president Sid Ganis shared Mendoza's outrage. "The collective joy and elation we felt every time the strains of Bill Conti's 'Gonna Fly Now' filled the theaters has been replaced with a feeling of disgust and betrayal," Ganis said.
Since Balboa's first onscreen fight in 1976, the fictitious boxer has inspired millions of theatergoers the world over. But the ruling, considered one of the harshest in sports- movie history, affects nearly all of the imaginary two-time heavyweight champion's inspiring moments in the ring. The reversed decisions include his first title victory in 1979, a three-round knockout of Clubber Lang in 1982, a montage of title defenses that same year, and a 15-round knockout of Ivan Drago, his toughest opponent, whom he fought in front of a hostile Communist crowd at the height of Hollywood's Reagan-era anti-Soviet furor.
"Drago was the villain in Rocky IV precisely because he was on steroids," lifelong fan Justin Grands said. "Now it turns out Stallone, the so-called hero, was just as juiced, if not more? What a bum."
Also nullified are the emotional highs that preceded or accompanied the victories, such as the triumphant sprint up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the climbing of a Russian mountain, and all one-handed pushups performed by Balboa. These scenes are also banned from future montages of Hollywood's greatest moments.
Virtually the only victory that still remains valid is the 1990 fight between Balboa and Tommy "Machine" Gunn, but only because it was a street brawl and thus not subject to sanction or regulation by a professional boxing organization.
All extant VHS and DVD copies of Rocky II, III, and IV have been recalled from circulation "effective immediately," and will not be re- released until a decision has been made whether to end the films before their climactic title matches or shoot new scenes in which Balboa suffers humiliating defeats, a spokesman for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said.
In the wake of the decision to reverse the films' endings, Balboa's title belt will be retroactively awarded to opponent Apollo Creed. Because Creed died at the beginning of Rocky IV, the posthumous title will be awarded in his stead to Carl Weathers, the actor who portrayed him.
The discovery of performance-enhancing drugs on Stallone's person vindicates years of hushed speculation among viewers that the Rocky films' rapid-fire training montages were too good to be true.
"Nobody can achieve those kinds of results from drinking raw eggs, punching meat, running in the snow, chopping wood, and lifting large wagons filled with people," sports medicine expert Bruce Thurman said. "The only way to make so much physical progress in such a short amount of time—often as little as three to five minutes—is to use HGH or anabolic steroids."
Suspicions were also raised in the wake of the most recent match, a 2006 exhibition fight against 25-year-old champion of the world Mason "The Line" Dixon, which the 60-year-old Stallone performed "unbelievably, even for a Rocky movie," according to former fan Lisa Burke.
"As a viewer, I shouldn't have to sit in a movie theater wondering if what I'm seeing is real," Burke said. "If I can't trust inspirational Hollywood sports movies featuring lovable heroes and clear demarcations between good and evil, what can I trust?"
"I just don't know what to believe anymore," fellow disappointed moviegoer Dan Manoogian said. "Am I no longer supposed to think crime is a disease and he's the cure? What about his work with the San Angeles Police Department after being cryogenically frozen until the year 2036—did that not happen either? I don't even want to think about the implications this could have on the fates of Vietnam prisoners of war rescued by John Rambo."