Creed is a fantastic movie, I’m excited to see Creed II, and if you want to disagree with me I’ll fight you. Okay, not really, but it is a great movie — not just as a well-put together, cast, and paced film, but for the way it posthumously transforms the Apollo Creed character and re-centers the story, shifting the whole racial subtext of the Rocky series. Adam Serwer explains things in The Atlantic.
At the end of Rocky III, Creed and Rocky have one last private showdown, but we don’t learn the outcome until Creed. Rocky IV begins with Creed fighting an “exhibition” match against the Soviet boxer Ivan Drago, who is meant to evoke the Nazis (at one point, Drago’s trainer comments that Rocky lacks the “genetics” to defeat Drago). Creed is elevated into the ring wearing an Uncle Sam outfit as James Brown performs in the background; a literal golden calf towers over the boxer’s head, marking him as a false god. Drago then promptly murders him in the ring. After three films in which he functions as little more than a means to illustrate Rocky’s greatness, Apollo is offered the highest of honors: He dies to provide the franchise’s white protagonist with motivation and character development. In almost every sense the movies can communicate, Apollo is deemed a fraudulent champion.