When the iconic boxing flick “Rocky” first stepped into the cinematic ring in 1976, its tagline on the movie poster read: “His whole life was a million to one shot.”
The same could be said for the odds of “Creed,” the new “Rocky” spin-off, punching up the same magic of the original series.
Yet somehow filmmaker Ryan Coogler, and stars Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone, the latter reprising his role as Rocky Balboa, can raise their arms in victory. “Creed” stands toe to toe with the best of the “Rocky” franchise, perhaps second only to the original and “Rocky II.”
It’s fantastic and already generating Oscar buzz.
“Creed” tells the story of Adonis Johnson, the illegitimate son of the late heavyweight boxing champ Apollo Creed. Shadowboxing his father’s image, Adonis seeks to make a name for himself in the fight game. And the only way he can do it is by enlisting help from his dad’s old opponent and friend, Rocky Balboa.
Most of “Creed” takes place in Philadelphia, not only Rocky’s theatrical hometown, but a legendary boxing mecca. In honor of the new film and the entire “Rocky” legacy, check out these Rocky-related stops when visiting Philly.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art
The famed steps of this museum first gained notoriety in the original “Rocky” as the big palooka ran them as part of his cardio workout. With the exception of “Rocky IV,” the steps have played a part in every “Rocky” movie, including “Creed.” Make it to the top, and you’ll find the imprint of Sly’s Converse sneakers.
Toward the base of the steps in the museum’s garden lives the bronze Rocky statue first seen in “Rocky III.”
26th St. Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia. 215-763-8100, philamuseum.org.
The Italian Market
Remember the scene in “Rocky” when the Italian Stallion ran through Philly’s Italian Market and a vendor tossed him an orange? That actually happened spontaneously and unscripted, and the filmmakers kept it in. Retrace the champ’s steps in the same place and watch out for flying fruit. Schedule your visit around the Italian Market Festival, which typically drops in May.
8 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays. S. 9th Street and Carpenter, Philadelphia. italianmarketphilly.org.
Mighty Mick’s Gym
Although Mickey Goldmill, Rocky’s trainer, had a Philly gym in the films, the interiors were shot in L.A. However, you can still find the red brick exterior seen in the franchise. It’s a circa 1910 three-story building that’s now home to a Dollar Plus market. The pet shop Adrian worked at, which is now defunct (2146 N. Front St., Philadelphia), can be found nearby.
2147 N. Front St. Philadelphia.
In “Rocky Balboa,” we see the Italian Stallion has become an Italian restauranteur. His eatery, Adrian’s, pops up again in “Creed” when Adonis tracks down Rocky. Adrian’s is actually a real-life restaurant called Di Stefano’s Victor Cafe. Go to its website for the full “Rocky Balboa” story. Want some tortellini or linguine and clams? The menu features those Italian delicacies and oodles of others. Stop by for a meal in the evening and listen as the waitstaff performs live opera.
5-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 5 p.m.-midnight Fridays; 4:30 p.m.-midnight Saturdays; 4:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Sundays. Di Stefano’s Victor Cafe, 1303 Dickinson St., Philadelphia. 215-468-3040, victorcafe.com.
Cheesesteak Your Claim
A visit to Philly isn’t complete without a mouthful of an authentic cheesesteak. So we consulted an actual former Philadelphia fighter to point us in the right direction.
Xavier “Bad Pads” Biggs, a trainer of champions and brother of 1984 Olympic super heavyweight boxing gold medalist Tyrell Biggs, may have relocated to Decatur, Ga. where he runs Decatur Boxing Club. But he knows where to find the reigning champs of Philly’s cheesesteak scene.
Geno’s Steaks (1219 S. 9th St., Philadelphia. genosteaks.com)
Biggs doesn’t recommend fighters gorging on cheesesteaks while training. But if they’re in Philly after a fight, he’ll send them to Geno’s. Open 24/7, the place lays claim to the Steak Milano featuring fried tomatoes and oregano.
Pat’s King of Steaks (1301 E. Passyunk Ave., Philadelphia, patskingofsteaks.com)
When he makes it back to Philly, this one lands on Biggs’ personal hit list. Pat’s offers an array of steak sandwich creations, from the barebones Steak to the Mushroom Pepper Pizza Steak. Pat’s has been whipping 'em up since 1930.
Learn more about Xavier Biggs at: biggsboxing.com