Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) reigns as heavyweight champion of the world. But he has grown soft with the trappings of success — commercial endorsements, his picture on the covers of Newsweek and Sports Illustrated. Just when he is ready to announce his retirement from the ring, Clubber Lang (Mr. T), an aggressive and rude black boxer with a hunger for the championship, verbally abuses him in front of a crowd. Rocky instinctively responds and decides to give him a title shot.

In on evening, Rocky goes down to defeat and suffers the loss of his beloved manager Micky (Burgess Meredith), who dies of a heart attack. This double blow plunges the fighter into the pits of depression. But then Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) volunteers to train him for a rematch with Clubber Lang. Can Rocky regain his competitive edge, what Mickey called "the eye of the tiger"?

Cultural critic John Lahr has written: "Fame is America's Faustian bargain; a passport to the good life which trivializes human endeavor." Suffering from the effects of fame, Rocky must push himself to the limits of his physical and psychic strength in order to regain his self-esteem. His wife (Talia Shire) is willing to endure the hardships of living in the L. A. slums while Rocky trains with Apollo, learning to "sting like a bee" and move fast on his feet.

Rocky III is an audience-involving film, and it is to Stallone's credit as a popular film director that we cheer for the champ in both victory and defeat. Rocky's real battle is against the distractions of success. In the end, we applaud not what happens in the right but Rocky's ability to get back in touch with himself.