Big Dreams—Fulfilled: “Creed” Star Michael B. Jordan

Newark native Michael B. Jordan boxes on the big screen as the star of "Creed."

Newark reared Michael B. Jordan, right, stars as in Creed as the son of Rocky Balboa's arch-rival. Sylvester Stallone revisits his inspirational character, as a coach.
Newark-reared Michael B. Jordan, right, stars as in "Creed" as the son of Rocky Balboa's arch-rival. Sylvester Stallone revisits his inspirational character, as a coach.
Photo courtesy of MGM/Barry Wetcher

Michael B. Jordan has a new love: boxing.

The California-born, Newark-bred actor shows off his ring talents as Sylvester Stallone’s costar in Creed, the latest installment of the Rocky Balboa saga, which opened nationwide on November 25. The film currently holds a 93 percent on critical aggregating site Rotten Tomatoes.

Jordan plays Adonis Johnson, a struggling fighter and son of Rocky’s former nemesis, Apollo Creed (who died in the ring in Rocky IV). In the film, Jordan’s character seeks out Stallone’s Rocky as his trainer. Layered among the fight scenes is an emotionally wrought coming-of-age story.

The 28-year-old Jordan’s powerful physique made him a natural for Creed. “I was already in good shape when we were ready to shoot,” he says. “I had completely changed my diet—did a lot of weight training and cardiovascular workouts, and boxed six times a week.”

The film reunites Jordan with Ryan Coogler, writer/director of the acclaimed 2013 film Fruitvale Station. Based on a true story, the movie chronicles the last day in the life of Oscar Grant III, who, though unarmed and handcuffed, was fatally shot in the back in a confrontation with San Francisco transit police.

Coogler wrote the part of Adonis Johnson specifically for Jordan before the movie was even pitched to Stallone. And it was Stallone who proved to be Jordan’s mentor on the set. “Sylvester was smart, supportive and open to collaboration,” says Jordan. “He helped me master boxing techniques for the fight scenes.”

Jordan’s road to fame began as a child model in print ads for the likes of Modell’s and Frito Lay. By age 12, he had landed guest roles on The Cosby Show and The Sopranos. Two years later, he scored his first principal film role in Hardball, starring Keanu Reeves. That was followed by a three-year stint in ABC’s All My Children. He has since appeared in numerous TV series, including NBC’s Friday Night Lights (as quarterback Vince Howard), Parenthood (as a recovering alcoholic) and HBO’s The Wire.

Earlier this year, Jordan was cast as the first African-American to portray a Marvel Comics superhero—Johnny Storm, the Human Torch—in this summer’s Fantastic Four.

Jordan doesn’t seem surprised by his ascent to stardom. “The thing about growing up in Newark,” he says, “is that it causes you to dream big.”

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