A lot of people who haven’t seen the original Rocky (1976) believe that Rocky defeated Apollo at the end of the film. After all, the hero always gets his victory in every movie, right?
Wrong! The film, and the several sequels, have always asked viewers to question the concept of “victory.” Life will constantly try to knock you out. You may not get a traditional win, but as long as you keep getting back up on your feet, you’re still in the feet.
Thus, when Rocky, a total nobody, was selected to fight Apollo in the first film, he found fame just by going the distance. Rocky was able to take a lot of punishment in the ring, something everyone has to do in order to get through life and be successful at anything.
Rocky did knock Apollo down early in the match, but Apollo got back up. It was the first time an opponent knocked Apollo down. Post-match, the bout was decided by a split decision in favor of Apollo.
So Rocky lost. That ending went against the grain of most movies. The hero always wins! But technically, Rocky did win. He was considered a loser, a bum, but he got in the ring, gave it his best, and gave Apollo the toughest fight of his career.
You may not win the way you wanted to, but keep in the fight and good things will happen.
In Rocky 2, Apollo demands a rematch. Here’s where Rocky gets his traditional victory. Rocky knocks Apollo down but falls down himself from exhaustion. Both fighters are on the mat, scrambling to be the first to stand up before the end of the referee’s ten count.
Rocky stands up before Apollo and wins. So yes, if you stay in the fight long enough, you may even get your traditional victory too.
SHORTER ANSWER: In Rocky 1 – No. Rocky loses to Apollo. In Rocky 2 – Yes. Rocky beats Apollo.