Portrait of Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago
|First appearance||Rocky IV|
|Portrayed by||Dolph Lundgren|
|Nickname(s)||The Siberian Express
The Siberian Bull
Death from Above
Soviet Army infantry Captain
Ivan Drago (Russian: Иван Драго) is a fictional character that appeared as Rocky Balboa's rival in the 1985 film Rocky IV. He is portrayed by Dolph Lundgren. Like the Clubber Lang character from Rocky III, the character and his catchphrases have gone on to inspire multiple mentions in popular culture, including in the Family Guy episodes "Brian Goes Back to College" and "Something, Something, Something, Dark Side", the Chuck episodes "Chuck Versus the Final Exam" and "Chuck Versus the Anniversary", film Disaster Movie, as well as the name of Michigan heavy metal band, If He Dies He Dies.
Ivan Drago is an Olympic gold medalist and an amateur boxing champion from the Soviet Union, who had an amateur record of 100-1-0 Wins (100 KO). He is billed at 6 ft 5 in (196 cm) and 261 pounds (118 kg, over 18 ½ stone). He wields a punch yielding over 1800 psi, whereas the average psi for a boxer is 700psi. He is also an infantry Captain in the Soviet Army and as seen on his chest, is a recipient of the Hero of the Soviet Union award. Drago is carefully fitted and trained to be the consummate fighter. His heart rate and punching power are constantly measured via computers during his workouts. Drago is seen receiving intramuscular injections in the movie, implied to be anabolic steroids, though the actual nature of the injected solution is never explicitly stated.
Drago is married to another athlete, Ludmilla Vobet Drago (Brigitte Nielsen) who is mentioned to be a double gold medalist in swimming. She is much more articulate than Drago, who seldom talks, and always speaks on his behalf at press conferences and interviews. She dismisses accusations of Drago's steroid use, explaining her husband's freakish size and strength by saying, "he is like your Popeye. He eats his spinach everyday!"
||This section possibly contains original research. (September 2013)|
Unlike the flamboyant Apollo Creed and the brash Clubber Lang—Rocky's opponents in previous movies—Ivan is quiet and non boastful. Driven by his desire to be the best at all costs, this single-minded manner in which he pursues this goal deprives him of his humanity. Many viewers and critics have suggested that Drago was meant to symbolize America's perception of Russia: immense, powerful, and emotionless. This is made evident by his cold-blooded pulverization of Creed in an exhibition match as well as by his callous reaction towards news of his opponent's death. Drago generally allows his wife and trainers to talk on his behalf to the press. The character only speaks short sentences, throughout the film, all terse, short statements.
He speaks English four times in the film:
In Rocky IV, Drago's trainers, Sergei Igor Rimsky (George Rogan) and Manuel Vega (James "Cannonball" Green), along with his wife Ludmilla (Brigitte Nielsen), are convinced that he can defeat any boxer. Drago enters professional heavyweight boxing in the beginning of the movie, as stated by the press. Former champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), now 42 years old, comes out of retirement to challenge Drago to an exhibition match, promoted by Creed's former rival Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Creed arrives to the ring wearing his signature Stars & Stripes boxing garb to "Living in America," sung by James Brown, upon a huge stage that is lowered into the ring. Before the match begins, Drago mutters "You will lose."
During the fight, Apollo is no match for the Russian fighter. Drago even continues to attack Creed after the bell is rung to end the round. In Apollo's corner, Rocky contemplates whether to throw in the towel and surrender the fight (against Creed's earlier instructions), but instead he decides to hold onto the towel. Defenseless, Apollo continues to absorb blows to the head until Drago finally kills him with a final blow to the head. Drago exhibits no remorse about what happened to the former champion, simply stating in an interview after the fight that "if he dies, he dies."
To avenge Apollo's death, Rocky travels to the Soviet Union to fight Drago on his home turf in Moscow. The fight eventually becomes a long, drawn-out war between Rocky and Drago, and to everyone's shock, Rocky manages to severely damage Drago, and the crowd begins to cheer for Rocky, whereas at the start of the fight, they were booing him. Drago's promoter — a Soviet/German official — insults him, claiming that by allowing an American to fight so admirably on Russian soil, Drago is disgracing the Soviet Union. The enraged Drago grabs him by the throat, throws him out of the ring and proclaims he only fights for himself. Rocky wins by KO in the 15th and final round in a dramatic ending.
In Rocky V, it is revealed that the pain Drago inflicted on Rocky left him with brain damage (specifically diagnosed as cavum septi pellucidi (CSP)), causing him to mistake people, see visions and various other things.
According to Rocky: The Ultimate Guide, Ivan Drago was not permitted to resume his boxing career after his loss to Rocky Balboa because of the special circumstance that he could not officially turn pro in the USSR. Ivan Drago turned professional after the fall of the Soviet Union and accumulated a record of 31-0 (31 KO) while also winning a portion of the Heavyweight title. He never unified the title or fought the very top contenders (as a pro) because of promotional politics. His only defeat as a pro or an amateur fighter was at the hands of Rocky Balboa. Todd Noy's 1989 book 'Drago: On Mountains we Stand' chronicles the rise of Ivan Drago after his defeat in Moscow. The book is affectionately referred to as Noy's 'final masterpiece'.
Commentaries on Drago have often characterized him as a hyperbolic representation of Russian power in the context of the latter part of the Cold War. This symbolism is particularly clear in some lines in the film, such as from the radio announcer during the final bout, who says, "Ivan Drago is a man with an entire country in his corner." Some have even argued that Drago's presence was an indicator that the Cold War was still very present even during 1985. Similarly, others have characterized Drago in contrast to Rocky, essentially cast as an American hero, and that Drago's defeat represents a crumbling of the U.S.S.R. Few have noticed Drago's individualism. Towards the conclusion of the movie, when Drago is confronted by a communist party functionary, this fighter from the collectivist USSR screams at the top of his lungs: "I fight to win FOR ME!! FOR ME!!!" Drago wants to win, but not for the crowd, not for the nation, not for the communist party, not for the Politburo. He wants to win for himself.
In 2004, Patrick Hruby referenced Ivan in a comparison of the American-Soviet Olympic rivalry of the era and wrote, "Nationalism makes the Olympics worth watching. Jingoism makes them worth caring about." Hruby noted that without an embodiment for rivalry like Ivan Drago, the Olympics are not as fun.
James "Clubber" Lang
|Rocky Balboa's main opponent||Succeeded by