GAZZO: Do what I tell you to do, because it's bad for my reputation.
Even loan sharks are concerned about their reputation. Both sharks and boxers want to have similar reputations. They want people to shake in their shorts at the sound of their name.
ROCKY: I been in that locker for six years and you put my stuff in a bag on skid row?
Rocky thinks he deserves better treatment because of the amount of time he has put into training. But Mickey is a quality over quantity guy, and Rocky doesn't get his quality seal of approval.
MICKEY: Dipper's a contender, he's a climber. Do you know what you are? […] A tomato.
Mickey has a lot of guts for saying this to Rocky's face, because Rocky is a big guy who could go attack of the killer tomatoes on the old man. But Rocky knows it's true, and it hurts.
ROCKY: Like I'm a plate of leftovers.
Rocky doesn't have a good reputation among the ladies, either. Adrian treats him like he's dog food… and she knows dog food, because she works in a pet store.
ROCKY: After a while, you get a reputation. That's it. You get no respect, you understand?
Rocky does his best Rodney Dangerfield impression.
ROCKY: You don't really have to be one. You just act like one, and that's it—boom! Bing!
Rocky is telling neighborhood girl Marie not to be a "whore," but the same advice could be applied to Rocky. No, he's not a whore. But he doesn't have to be a heavyweight champion, he just has to act like one. Boom! Bing!
ROCKY: You hang around with coconuts, you get nowhere. They're lemons! Lemons!
This is good advice, but which is it, Rock? Are they coconuts or are they lemons? Or are they lemon-coconut cupcakes? Would that be a good thing?
APOLLO: Shape nothing, man. They afraid. Hell, they know everybody in the world's gonna see this fight, and none of them got a prayer of whipping me. So they making excuses so they don't have to be the chump to get whipped in front of the whole civilized world.
Apollo knows that reputation is a more valuable currency in the boxing world than sheer strength and talent is. That's why he spends so much time cultivating an image for himself.
ROCKY: All I wanna do is go the distance. […] And if I can go that distance, see, and that bell rings and I'm still standin', I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood.
More than the championship belt, Rocky wants the ego boost. No one will call him a bum if he gets that close to the title, even if he doesn't get it. The reputation is a priceless prize.
COACH: You're fighting like a bum.
Many people are disappointed in Rocky, and this nameless coach echoes Mickey's sentiments later in the movie. One of the biggest reasons they're disappointed in him is that he's stubborn. He won't take advice.
ROCKY: Last year, me and the turtles had Spam.
Rocky doesn't have much of a personal life. He's very lonely, and without a family, it's just him, his turtles, and a can of potted meat on Thanksgiving.
ROCKY: Hey, you gotta be a moron, you gotta be a moron to wanna be a fighter, you know what I mean? It's a racket where you're almost guaranteed to end up a bum.
It seems like boxing is a last-resort career route, in Rocky's opinion. You don't get into boxing if you have other opportunities.
MICKEY: Cos you had the talent to become a good fighter! And instead of that, you became a leg-breaker to some cheap, second-rate loan shark! […] It's a waste of life!
Mickey is disappointed in Rocky for not putting 100% into his fighting career. He has never been able to forgive him, because Mickey always thought Rocky could be the best. This is Mickey's tough love.
ROCKY: I'm really a ham and egger. This guy, he's the best. It wouldn't be such a good fight.
Rocky doesn't think he even belongs in the same ring as Apollo Creed. After the verbal beating from Mickey, who suggests he retire, he's disappointed in himself, and has no confidence.
ROCKY: That's nice. You didn't take very good care of the picture, though.
This is a small, subtle line, but it shows Rocky's disappointment in how Mickey has let himself go. Sure, Mickey had a good career as a fighter, but he didn't take care of himself. Rocky knows if he had the same opportunity, he'd have cherished it.
ROCKY: Talkin' about your prime. What about my prime, Mick? At least you had a prime. I ain't had no prime! I ain't had nothin'!
This is one of the most emotional, heartbreaking lines in the movie. Rocky lets his frustration and disappointment with his own sad life bubble to the surface.
PAULIE: I don't get married because of you! You can't live by yourself! I put you two together, and you... don't you forget it! You owe me! You owe me!
Rocky isn't the only one disappointed with the cards life as dealt him. Paulie isn't fairing any better. He takes it out on Adrian, though, instead of taking responsibility for his own shortcomings.
PAULIE: I can't haul meat no more!
Okay, this line isn't nearly as good as Rocky's "prime" line. Paulie is hardly a prime cut of meat. But the emotions behind it are the same. Paulie is at his breaking point, and he's tired of begging Rocky to cut him a break.
ROCKY: That don't matter. Because I was nobody before.
The one positive thing to being at rock bottom is that you can only go up from there. As long as Rocky tries to fight Apollo, he will be better off.
ROCKY: He took his best shot at becoming champ. What shot did you ever take?
Rocky is talking to a lippy bartender here, but he might as well be talking about himself. At this point, he hasn't taken any big shots at being champ, either. He is sticking to the bottom of the barrel.
ROCKY: All I wanted to do out of fighting was prove I was no bum, that I had the stuff to make a good pro.
Although Rocky has his mind on big goals, at this point in his life, he isn't doing anything to achieve them. He needs to back up his big amibitions with big actions.
ROCKY: He says to me "You weren't born with much of a brain, you know, so you better start usin' your body."
Rocky's dad was insulting, but the insult gave Rocky the ambition to be a strong fighter.
ADRIAN: My mother, she said the opposite thing […] She said, "you weren't born with much of a body, so you better develop your brain."
Adrian is shy, but she wants to be smart. Good thing shyness aren't intelligence aren't mutually exclusive.
JERGENS: He picked you, Rocky. Rocky, it's the chance of a lifetime. You can't pass it by.
"Chance of a lifetime" is the key phrase for Rocky, who has been looking for that chance his whole life. Lucky for him that it falls right into his lap.
APOLLO: Look, if history proves one thing American history proves that everybody's got a chance to win.
Apollo is right: America was built on ambition. Rocky's ambition makes him a quintessential American hero.
ROCKY: I guess I'll have to do the best I can.
Doing the best he can will pay off to the tune of $150,000. Rocky's ambition is finally paying dividends.
ADRIAN: Beethoven was deaf. Helen Keller was blind. I think Rocky's got a good chance.
This line shows us how smart she is (Beethoven reference in a boxing movie), and is Adrian's way of complimenting Rocky's fierce personal drive. She believes in him.
GAZZO: You know, you ain't never had any luck, but I think this time Lady Luck may be in your corner.
Gazzo is complimenting Rocky's ambition here. When Mickey later tells Rocky that his opportunity is "freak luck" it's a little different when he says it. Mickey thinks that luck is the only way Rocky is going to get anyway. Both men are right.
MICKEY: They're good fighters, right? They're colorful, they got good records. They fight their guts out for peanuts.
Mickey thinks that ambition comes with sacrifice, and he doesn't think that Rocky has sacrificed enough to be a good fighter. Because of that, Mickey equates Rocky with being lazy instead of ambitious.
ROCKY: A southpaw throws your timin' off, see? Other guys, it throws their timing off, it makes 'em look awkward. Nobody wants to look awkward.
Rocky's left-handedness gives him an advantage in the ring, but in boxing, advantages are often seen as disadvantages. Most men want a fair fight.
MICKEY: Marciano... He had the same problem and this string cured it.
Mickey knows he can appeal to Rocky's competitive nature by name-dropping his idol, Rocky Marciano.
MICKEY: The idea is that if you can move and you can hit without breakin' the string, you got balance. You become a dangerous person.
This is a boxing movie, so we need to see Rocky training for the competition. Most of the time, he trains in montage, but this is a unique trick Mickey does to help Rocky with his balance.
MICKEY: Like the guy says, you're gonna eat lightning and you're gonna crap thunder!
Out of context, this sounds like a terrible idea. But in context, it's just Mickey telling Rocky how fierce he's going to be in the ring.
MICKEY: Go for the ribs. Don't let that bastard breathe.
In order to have a competitive edge, Rocky needs to take advice. This is one instance where he actually does it, and it helps him gain the upper hand in the fight.
DUKE: He doesn't know it's a damn show. He thinks it's a damn fight.
There were many boxing scandals over the years. Now, this fight isn't rigged, but Rocky isn't supposed to win. However, Rocky is a competitive man, and he isn't going down without a fight just because Creed's narrative wants him to.