Round 1: Main character name. The champ comes out swinging with the titular title character "Rocky" invoking a time, place and ethnicity. The laughably bland main character name in "South" - Billy "The Great" Hope - sounds the writers were trying to come up with some intriguing name but eventually principal filming needed to start and they couldn't answer the question "The Great" what? Did they mean he is the Great Hope? But not the Great White Hope with it implicit kinda racist overtones? Anyway, few real boxer nicknames and no movie boxer nicknames can stand again the memorability of the "Italian Stallion". And the challenger is down and the fight end early!
Round 2: the kid: The challenger avoids the early knockout with Oona (that's a name?) Laurence's portrayal of Billy the Goat...er Great's daughter who is traumatized by the shooting death of her mother and Billy's incompetent parenting. While Laurence winds up just shouting at the televised climatic fight much like Ian Fried's Rocky, Jr. does, at least she has a character arc and some dramatic moment. Looks like the fight is on.
Round 3: the death that pushes the champion into a downward spiral: and we got ourselves a battle! We had 2 fully "Rocky" movies to come to know Burgess Meredith's Mickey Goldmill so his heart attack before the first Clubber Lang fight is affecting. However, given how much Billy and Leila rely on Maureen to parent them both, her shooting by Miguel Escobar's squad equals the pathos of Mickey's death.
Round 4: the baddie: Oh, and the champion comes back hard! The monster of 80's cheese Mr. T. somehow projects both a menacing and ludicrous screen presence. He plays the hungry, scrappy underdog that Rocky was before his Ferrari and house robot made him soft. Miguel "Magic" Escobar amounts to little more than off-the-shelf disrespectful thug with little to distinguish him from his crew.
Round 5: the savior trainer: But the challenger isn't done yet! The excellent Forest Whitaker plays the also unfortunately named Tick Willis (seriously, who came up with these character names?) He is kind to street kids and who takes on Billy when he is at his lowest point despite Billy treating him like crap and he is some kind of boxing training savant (his expertise is never explained). While the round goes to "Southpaw", Carl Weathers Apollo Creed (see, that's a great character name) is a mostly one note Rocky support system for Rocky but his physical attractiveness and easy smile makes his a highly engaging actor to watch on film.
Round 6: the big fight: And the challenger is against the ropes! The eventual Escobar Vs. Hope or "Magic" Vs. "The Great" battle excels at verisimilitude and therefore not so much at drama. An open Hollywood secret director Antoine Fuqua missed in film school is that while audiences complain about the lack of realism in movie boxing matches, they actually want them to include dozens of uncontested punches per round. Balboa Vs. Lang includes enough haymakers to give both men CTE before the ring girl strutted around the ring with the "4" card. When Jim Lampley's monolouging during the climatic Miguel / Hope showdown is the most interesting part of the proceedings, your fight staging is a little too accurate.
And the challenger is out! There won't be no rematch or a "Southpaw" sequel for that matter. The plodding, overly serious, staging of a story that's been done better multiple times before unfortunately wastes Gyllenhaal's impressive physical transformation. In short, "Rocky!", "Rocky!", Rocky!"