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Sylvester Stallone has announced that he is retiring the Rocky Balboa character, after more than 40 years.
For more than four decades fans have watched and re-watched the Philadelphia boxer slug it out in countless heavyweight bouts, whether it was his titanic tussle with Apollo Creed in the 1976 original, Rocky, or his bitter Cold War clash with the Herculean Ivan Drago.
The muscle-bound brawler then made a surprising come back in the 2006 film, Rocky Balboa, which saw the ageing boxer still grieving over the death of his beloved wife, Adrian.
But against all odds he is given one last shot, and steps back into the ring to take on the cocky champ, Mason 'The Line' Dixon in a brutal draw.
He explained: "Well, this is probably my last rodeo because... I thought Rocky was over in 2006, and I was very happy with that, and then all of the sudden [pointing to his right off-screen at the film's star Michael B. Jordan] this young man presented himself and the whole story changed.
"It went on to a new generation. New problems. New adventures. And I couldn't be happier, because as I step back, as my story has been told, there's a whole new world that's gonna be opening up, for the audience, for this generation."
In the post's caption, Stallone also wrote: "I just want to thank everyone around the whole wide World for taking the Rocky family into their hearts for over 40 years. It's been my Ultimate privilege to have been able to create and play this meaningful character.
"Though it breaks my heart, Sadly all things must pass... and end. I love you Kind and generous people, and The most wonderful thing of all, is that ROCKY will never die because he lives on in you."
The heartfelt goodbye comes ahead of the release of Creed II, a sequel to the spin-off movie Creed, which follows the rise of Adonis Creed - the son of Rocky's former rival and friend Apollo - played by Jordan.
In the second instalment Creed is given the chance to avenge his father's death, as he is pitted against the giant figure of Victor Drago the son of Russian machine Ivan.
Creed II is in cinemas in the UK tomorrow (November 30).
Featured Image Credit: Instagram/Chartoff-Winkler Productions
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