Creed III ending explained: does Donnie win the fight?

Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors in Creed III
Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors in Creed III (Image credit: Eli Ade/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayers Pictures)

Movie fans everywhere are stepping back into the ring with Creed III, the latest entry in the popular boxing franchise that can trace its roots back to 1976's Rocky. As a sports movie, it would be easy to just assume the main character is going to win, but one of the things that have always made Rocky/Creed stand out is that sometimes they're willing to let their heroes lose the physical fight but claim a moral victory. Is that what happens with the Creed III ending?

SPOILER ALERT if you have not watched Creed III yet, as we are about to get into some plot details leading up to and the end of the movie.

Before we break down who wins the big fight in Creed III, let's cover some of the basics of the Creed III story. The key relationship is between Donnie (Michael B. Jordan) and Damian (Jonathan Majors), who were friends and boxing hopefuls together when they were teens. But Damian ends up getting arrested and spending 18 years in jail, while Donnie ran away, failed to stay in touch with his old friend (with the help of his mom Mary-Anne, who withheld letters from Damian) and gets the boxing glory, as we see at the start of Creed III, when Donnie wins his last fight and becomes the unified heavyweight champion.

This is meant to be Donnie's last fight, as he focuses more on his family and promoting a new generation of fighters. However, when Damian comes back into his life with the hopes to get a shot at the title, he presses Donnie to make it happen. Using connections he made in prison, Damian opens up a spot in the big fight that Donnie was promoting and convinces Donnie to let him fill in. Damian then proves he also fights dirty in the ring and knocks out his opponent to win the title.

When Donnie learns about what Damian did, he is furious, but Damian doesn't care. The former has what the latter felt was his and no longer needs Donnie, and Damian looks to create his own legacy and destroy Donnie's in the process as payback for turning his back on him all those years ago.

The only thing Donnie can do to stop it is to come out of retirement and challenge Damian.

Who wins in Creed III?

After a rigorous training session to get back into shape (with some help from Viktor Drago), Donnie and Damian square off at Dodger Stadium. Damian comes out aggressive, but Donnie is eventually able to shake the rust off. 

It is a brutal fight, with the pair's personal rivalry having more of an impact than the titles on the line. This is shown through surreal images of the two fighting against prison bars and removing the entire crowd from the stadium so it looks like just the two of them fighting.

The fight goes to the 12th round. In the final and decisive round, Damian lands a crushing body blow to Donnie, which knocks him to his knees. With the ref issuing the count, Donnie struggles to get back up, but Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and Duke (Wood Harris) cheer him on and he is able to stand just in time to beat the count and stay in the fight.

Throughout the movie, Donnie has been telling people boxing is not just about power, but focus, timing and precision. It's these skills that allow Donnie to take control of the fight in the final moments, including being able to see when a weak spot in Damian's blocking opens up, allowing him to land a decisive blow. This knocks Damian out and Donnie wins the fight, once again making him the world champion.

Michael B. Jordan in a boxing robe in Creed III

Michael B. Jordan in Creed III (Image credit: Eli Ade/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

What happens with Donnie and Damian?

The fight was just a way for Donnie and Damian to get their emotions out physically; there's still the personal side of their relationship that needed to be addressed. After the fight, Donnie takes the chance to do so, visiting Damian in his locker room and apologizing for not being there for Damian during and after his arrest. Damian has also had some growth after their experiences, telling Donnie everything that happened wasn't on him. While they may never be able to be the friends they used to be, Donnie and Damian have an understanding and respect for one another again, saying goodbye with their personal handshake they had as teens.

Is there going to be a Creed IV?

The final scene of the movie sees Donnie, Bianca and Amara (Mila Davis-Kent) celebrate as a family, playing around in the ring before heading home; happy, healthy and at peace in all of their relationships.

All this is to say that there is no clear indication from how Creed III ends that there will be a Creed IV at any time in the future. However, all it takes is a new challenger to feasibly bring Donnie and company back. 

But whether or not more Creed movies are on the way, Creed III feels like it could be a satisfying conclusion to the characters we've gotten to know over the three movies.

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.