Which Sidekicks Helped Make Rocky Balboa a Champion?

Who was the most important sidekick in the Italian Stallion's corner?


    rocky-weekRocky Week bobs and weaves its way into round two. Yesterday, Dan Caffrey sprinted through a marathon of all the Rocky sequels. Today, Blake Goble and Sarah Kurchak celebrate all the Sidekicks who helped Rocky Balboa become the thunder-crapping people’s champ! 

    Rocky Balboa’s one of the most beloved boxers to ever hit the silver screen and come out with a gold belt. The marble-mouthed masher from Philly was a TKO with audiences. Sylvester Stallone’s script fueled John G. Avildsen’s Best Picture Winner, and Stallone’s world of muscle and well-intentioned folks from Philly built a retrograde feel-gooder that totally went against the grain of ‘70s cinema. Rocky was optimistic, charming, and vintage. That first film inspired five sequels, and the brand-new Ryan Coogler spin-off, Creed.

    Dat’s a whole lotta sparrin’, and Rock couldn’t have stayed the people’s champ for this long without a little help from his friends: coaches, colleagues, family members. Pets, too. Shoot, even inanimate objects. Rock likes to fight, day and night, but he mighta been another bum had he not accumulated years of offbeat experiences (rather, met a colorful cast of characters and creatures straight out of funky Philly).


    In honor of Creed, and in remembrance of Stallone’s colorful franchise, we’ve decided to rank all of Rock’s sidekicks. Who are the prize fighter’s heavy helpers, and who are the welter wusses? Find out in this finely tuned list that didn’t require no eggs at four in the morning or trips to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Because sometimes, a turtle can help you with your sparring more than some lout in-law ever could.

    –Blake Goble
    Senior Staff Writer

    *Editor’s Note: Adrian (Talia Shire) is not a “sidekick.” She’s his wife — his partner.

    13. Paulie Pennino


    Film(s): Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, Rocky V, Rocky Balboa

    Talk about riding the coattails of another man’s success. Paulie let Rock into the meat-packing plant a few times, and suddenly he thinks he’s Rocky’s bestie, his consigliere. Paulie, with his fisherman’s hat, beer belly, and verbal pugilism that makes the plain-spoken Rocky sound positively, uh, articulate-like, was a loser. A lame-o. A Philly-stine. He practically abused his sister Adrian and forced her to date ol’ Rock. Paulie instigated and provoked absolutely every one of Rock’s opponents. Paulie was ungrateful that one time Rocky was nice enough to get a helper robot for Paulie on his birthday. He pissed about snow in Russia and moaned about arthritis when he was getting up there in Rocky Balboa. He ruined a turkey dinner in part one. He took swings in resentment at Rocky in chapter three. We learn in V his bad investments cost Rocky everything he won over the years. And who the hell knows how much cigar ash Paulie left all over the place in those 30-odd years of claiming to be Rocky’s buddy?

    Paulie Pennino: The true bum of the Rocky franchise.

    Parting Wisdom: Never let your in-laws be a part of the process.

    Blake Goble


    12. Robert Balboa Jr. #4 (Sage Stallone)


    Film(s): Rocky V

    Did you know that Rocky Jr.’s been played by five different kids over five of the Rocky films? And in this list, we’re going to count three as sidekicks (IV, V, and Balboa), because those three young people provided varying degrees of support and wisdom. Sadly, Stallone’s real, actual son was the worst and least helpful.

    Poor kid. Sage Stallone never had that one-in-a-million chance like Rocky Balboa. Like Frank Stallone before him, he’d live in the shadow of the very successful and popular Sly and eventually become a pop punchline. Sly’s real-life son was cast at the age of 13 to play Balboa’s fourth filmic son, Robert Balboa, in the ridiculously clunky and clueless Rocky V: The One with that Street Fight and a Guy Actually Named “Tommy Gunn”. And Sage being a real 13-year-old, he had a real teen’s acting sensibility: lines that get whined, stances at ringside offering very little while demanding his father’s constant love and attention. Get off Rock’s back, kid, he’s got Mr. Gunn now! Plus, he makes some really bad gang friends, crum-bums.

    Yet, none of this is as bad as that terrible earring Sage sported. What’s up, 1990?

    Parting Wisdom: Never let nepotism dictate your casting decisions.

    Blake Goble



    11. Robert Balboa Jr. #3 (Rocky Krackoff)

    rocky jr

    Film(s): Rocky IV

    This kid was mugging it up as the third iteration of Rocky’s spawn. Rocky Krackoff was a child actor through-and-through, cracking wise, getting Paulie’s goat. Whereas the first two Rocky Juniors were pretty much babies, this Rocky Jr. was super mid-‘80s, a child actor placed solely for the purpose of yuks and busting Rock’s chops for a few scenes. Did this Rocky Jr. contribute heavily to the Italian Stallion’s game in the ring? Not necessarily. No. But this was the first instance of Rocky Jr. being given some authority and faint characterization, and he enabled Stallone to show off paternal sentiment and concern for his own life.

    That, or Stallone saw Short Round in Temple of Doom the year prior and was like… “Chartoff! Winkler! Fellas! I just saw dat new Indy flick and realized we need a kid in the new Rocky! One with attitude!”

    Parting Wisdom: Kids just say the darndest things. But if you’re a boxer, and your son says your head looks like a catcher’s mitt, don’t brush that stuff off. He could be saying that your head looks swollen and shiny from bruising or maybe leathery from plastic surgery (*cough* Stallone looked weirdly different, kinda vanity-different, in the middle entries *cough*). Maybe, just maybe, Rock, you should see a doctor about all that.

    Blake Goble