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Antagonist
Clubber Lang

Full name

James "Clubber" Lang

Alias

Southside Slugger

Goal

Become the new World Champion (succeeded, later failed)

Fate

Loses his title to Rocky Balboa after the rematch

Prediction? ... Pain.
~ Clubber's most famous catchphrase

Clubber Lang is a heavyweight boxer from Chicago who served as the main antagonist of the 1982 film Rocky III.

He was portrayed by Mr. T (in his first and only villainous role).

Film role

Mickey worriedly eyes a young and powerful contender rapidly rising through the ranks named James "Clubber" Lang. Rocky is publicly challenged by Lang, now the number-one contender. Lang accuses Rocky of intentionally accepting challenges from lesser opponents, and after he makes a remark toward Rocky's wife, Adrian, Rocky decides to accept the challenge. Rocky trains in a hotel ballroom, open to the public, with a live band, and is clearly not taking his training seriously. In contrast, Lang trains alone with ruthless determination and vigor.

Lang and Rocky meet at Philadelphia's Spectrum. In a brawl backstage, Mickey is violently shoved out of the way by Lang, causing Mickey to suffer a heart attack. Distraught, Rocky requests to call the match off, but Mickey urges him on while he stays in the dressing room. By the time of the match, Rocky is both enraged and severely distracted by his mentor's condition. The match begins with Rocky pounding Lang with several huge blows, going for an early knockout, but the bigger, stronger, and better-prepared Lang quickly recovers and takes charge, dominating Rocky, and knocking him out with a haymaker left hook in the second round, winning the heavyweight championship title.

Clubber is later seen in a TV interview about the rematch. He says he will train harder and that he'll crucify him real bad. Before the fight in the locker room, He predicts pain for the fight.

As the match is under way, Rocky sprints from his corner, fighting with a level of skill and spirit that no one ever expected. As a result, Rocky completely dominates the first round. After the bell, an enraged Lang has to be restrained by his corner. In the second round, Lang gains the upper hand, and Rocky adopts an entirely different strategy that bewilders Apollo by intentionally taking a beating from Lang, even getting knocked down twice, all the while taunting Lang that he cannot knock him out. By the third round, Lang, who is used to winning matches swiftly with knockouts in the early rounds, becomes increasingly furious over Rocky's taunts. He quickly exhausts his energy trying to finish Rocky off with repeated knockout blows, which Rocky blocks or dodges. With Lang rattled and vulnerable, Rocky seizes the opportunity to finish off Lang in a knockout to reclaim the heavyweight championship.

Trivia

  • In total, 1,200 people auditioned for the role of Clubber Lang. The role eventually went to Mr. T, which would later become his film debut.
  • Clubber Lang was the only villainous role that Mr. T has ever played in his career. Clubber is also the first Rocky antagonist to be considered a true villain due to his ruthless and vile nature. 
  • Clubber is considered the most vile Rocky villain aside from Ivan Drago. 
  • Had Rocky not fought Clubber Lang, Apollo would likely have never been killed by Ivan Drago, Rocky would have not been severely injured by Drago to the point of brain damage and Adonis Creed would have stayed in school and not become a boxer. It is also very likely that, had Lang not attacked Mickey, he would have not suffered the heart attack that killed him. It can be argued that Lang indirectly caused the events of all the subsequent movies.
  • Most of Mr. T's famous quotes have come from this character, such as "I pity the fool"., which has often been misassociated with his better-known role on The A-Team. However, the phrase was reused in Mister T, an animated cartoon showing a heroic Mr. T who helped kids solve crimes. One piece of merchandise associated with the cartoon was a bookmark with Mr. T saying "I pity the fool who loses his place in this book!"
  • One of Lang's most famous moments, when Clubber shouts at Adrian that she should be with him instead of Rocky was actually improvised by Mr. T. Stallone, who was directing Rocky III, liked it and kept it in the final cut because it helped show how despicable Lang was, as well as really drove Rocky to fight again. However, Mr. T's mother was allegedly upset with its inclusion, saying to him at the premiere "I did not raise you to talk to a lady like that!". 
  • Earnie Shavers was initially the favorite to land the role of Clubber Lang. According to Shavers, Sylvester Stallone called him and told him the role was his once they got a formal audition out of the way. The audition was set up, with Shavers and Stallone sparring. As Shavers tells it, Stallone kept goading him not to hold back and to hit him with everything he had, but Shavers was reluctant to do so. Eventually, after Stallone began to hit him, Shavers lost his temper and punched him under the ribs, doubling Stallone over. Stallone was helped out of the ring without saying a word, and according to Shavers, he never heard from Stallone again. Interestingly however, this story has never been corroborated by anyone involved with the film.
  • The rematch with Clubber Lang at the end of this film is the last time in the series Rocky fights for the title. In Rocky IV, the end fight with Ivan Drago is not sanctioned by the American boxing board (a fact that is confirmed by a commentator before the fight). In Rocky V, Rocky didn't fight in the ring. In Rocky Balboa, the end fight was an exhibition bout against the reigning champion, Mason "the Line" Dixon.
  • Mr. T looks at the camera and breaks the fourth wall when he delivers the famous "pain" line. 
  • Rocky makes the exact same mistake as Apollo in the first movie of underestimating an opponent. He invested more time in making a show of the first fight with Clubber Lang that it severely cost him.
  • In Rocky II, one of the hate letters to Apollo Creed read: "How much did you get to carry that bum for 15 rounds? You're a disgrace to your people." It has been theorized that this letter was written by Clubber Lang, who at that point was still a relatively unknown boxer. If true, this would explain Lang's hatred for both Apollo and Rocky as seen in Rocky III. It would also make sense considering that Lang's primary hatred for Rocky stemmed from Rocky not "earning" his fame from boxing but rather effectively being handed it by both of Creed's exhibition fights.

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