The Incredible Hulk chose boxing, 40 years ago
Even 40 years ago, no other sport generated as much interest in Hollywood as boxing.
And while we're familiar with the Rocky franchise as well as The Champ, Million Dollar Baby, Southpaw, Raging Bull, The Boxer, Cinderella Man and a host of other movies, few realize an iconic TV show used boxing as its backdrop to launch its maiden weekly series.
The creators of The Incredible Hulk, which ran from 1977 to 1982, introduced its weekly programming with 'Final Round,' an episode about a good-natured boxer and his dealings with an unscrupulous promoter and trainer.
Prior to 'Final Round,' there were two previous Incredible Hulk movies but the show, as a weekly series, was far from a done deal at the time of their airing.
In November 1977, CBS broadcast its first of two one-off episodes of The Incredible Hulk TV series. The inaugural pilot movie started from the very beginning, detailing the origins of how David Banner turned into the Hulk. The second episode, 'Death in the Family,' was the first real show, plot-wise, that would set the tone for ensuing episodes the next 5 years.
The first two shows, which were aired in late Fall 1977, were a ratings hit so CBS agreed to make The Incredible Hulk a weekly TV series. However, because the network's decision to sign-on for a weekly program was contingent on ratings for the first two one-offs, subsequent shows were not immediately produced, creating a lull between the second to third show.
It wasn't until several months later, March 1978, 'Final Round' debuted as the show's first weekly program.
The show itself was nothing to write home about but there are several points of interest:
- The (good guy) fighter who the plot centers around, Henry Welsh (who calls himself “Rocky”), is played by Martin Kove who would later be known as the evil sensei, John Kreese, in a few of The Karate Kid movies.
- This episode was scripted just a year after the first Rocky movie. Perhaps the writers believed a plot focused on a boxer would provide for a safe theme for its official weekly kick-off.
- The Hulk-out transformations are pretty weak versus what they evolved to in ensuing seasons.
- Watching the Hulk leap into the ring and crash the fight is very entertaining.(Imagine that happening during Canelo vs GGG?!)
The Hulk as a boxer
The Hulk showed fine defensive prowess, dodging a punch from the champ and countering with a slap that sent his opponent 20 feet and into the front row. Incredibly athletic and boasting tremendous strength, the Hulk was quick and nimble for a big man and possessed unmatched killer instinct.
After some anger management classes to get his temper under control, he would have been a more-than-formidable opponent for then-heavyweight champion Larry Holmes.
Stream the full episode Final Round from season 1 episode 4 of The Incredible Hulk