- "C'mon, punk. Touch me and I'll sue."
- ―George Washington Duke to Rocky Balboa
George Washington Duke (born January 15, 1943) is a retired boxing promoter and boxing manager, who, by 1990, had at least 20 years of promoting some of the biggest fights in history. However, he never could get Rocky Balboa to fight any of his boxers. He was always accompanied by a beautiful, statuesque, buxom redhead assistant named Karen and his business partner Merlin Sheets. Duke is the main antagonist of Rocky V.
In 1985 (Rocky V), Duke attempted to sign Rocky Balboa for the biggest pay-check a boxing champion had ever received, Duke was planning a fight between young challenger Union Cane against Balboa, taking place in Tokyo, Japan. Upon arriving home, Balboa discovered that he had suffered brain damage following his fight against Ivan Drago and subsequently retired immediately, vacating his championship. Duke still continued to pursue Balboa even going as far to dig up Balboa's medical record and ensure him that with their help, he will be licensed in any country in the world. Along with his wife Adrian's advice, Balboa declines the offer. Duke backed off for a while until he saw a young fighter that Balboa had been training, making his way up the rankings. Duke realised that he could intervene in the relationship that Tommy Gunn and Balboa had, hoping to make a fight between them. Eventually, Duke discovered that there were no official papers between Balboa and Gunn, he swopped in and offered Gunn more money, a title fight, and an escape from Balboa's shadow. Gunn accepted and turned sour towards Balboa. Gunn went on to defeat Union Cane to become Heavyweight Champion, but the media disregarded him as a paper champion and Rocky's Robot. Duke then goaded Gunn into finding and challenging Balboa to a boxing match, but his plan went sideways when Gunn punched Balboa's brother-in-law, Paulie, prompting Balboa to challenge Gunn to a fight then and there in the street. Balboa knocked Gunn out and then proceeded to punch Duke.
There isn't much information surrounding Duke's early life, it is assumed that he worked his way up using his charisma and manipulative skills to become the number one promoter in boxing.
Attempting to bring Rocky Balboa out of retirement
In 1985, Rocky returned home from Russia, after his match against Ivan Drago; with both Mickey Goldmill and Apollo Creed now deceased, Rocky was now with no management whatsoever, and Duke saw this as an opportunity to get Rocky to participate in a fight he would promote. Duke crashed Balboa's press conference along with his business partner Merlin Sheets and young heavyweight number one contender, Union Cane. Duke promised Balboa that this fight would be the biggest payday of any boxing champion ever, informing the media that it would be an international extravaganza, taking place in Tokyo, Japan. Balboa's wife, Adrian interrupted and informed the media that her husband is retired and would not accept the fight. Balboa didn't confirm these claims, instead commenting on the flight over from Russia and then leaving the press conference. In the coming weeks, Balboa would lose all of his assets due to some shady business from his accountant and be forced to move back to the slums of Philadelphia. During this time, Balboa considered fighting Cane, but visited a doctor first and discovered that he had brain damage as a result of the Drago fight and officially retired.
Taking Union Cane to the Heavyweight Championship
In reply to Rocky's retirement and thus, refusal of taking part of this promoted fight, Duke began hounding the Balboa family in hope to pull Rocky into fighting again, even despite Rocky's medical situation that prevented him from even getting licensed to fight. Duke tracked Balboa down on the streets of Philadelphia and began to take advantage out of Rocky's recent bankruptcy by telling him that he could get all his money back from just one more fight, Duke then presented Balboa with a copy of his medical record, informing Balboa that with their help he could get licensed in any country in the world. Balboa considered the proposal for a moment before his wife Adrian intercepted again and informed Duke that her husband was retired and would not fight again. Balboa sided with his wife and declined the offer. Duke would then promote a fight between Union Cane and an unnamed fighter for the vacant Heavyweight Championship, Cane would go on to win the fight.
Taking Tommy Gunn to the Heavyweight Championship
Soon after Rocky re-opened Mickey's former gym, a man named Tommy Gunn approached him and eventually convinced him to be his manager. However, no formal papers were signed between the two, and as soon as Gunn climbed quickly in boxing fame, and nearing a shot at the title, Duke saw such a lack of papers as an opening, and convinced Tommy to let him be his manager and promoter, promising him more money, a title fight, and an escape from Balboa's shadow. Duke then promoted a fight between Gunn and Cane for the Heavyweight Championship with Gunn winning the fight. After Tommy Gunn became champion, he was ridiculed by the media, who said he was no real champion and that he should fight some real contenders and earn his belt, also continuing to say that he was in Balboa's shadow. Duke attempted to use Tommy's frustration towards being in Rocky's shadow, and him being the champion so belittled, to convince him to pull Rocky in the ring with him so he could earn his respect by beating him, but this greatly backfired when he, Tommy, and a little camera crew went to find and hound Balboa in town that night.
After Tommy and Rocky's conversation became heated, they engaged in a street fight, despite Duke's attempts to prevent it from happening anywhere outside the ring. After Rocky defeats Tommy, Rocky approached Duke, who threatened to sue him if he touched him. Rocky, despite this, knocked him down with an uppercut, nonchalantly replying, "Sue me for what?", since Rocky was broke.
Events After Rocky V
The series is yet to specify what happened to Duke following the street fight, it is unknown if he continued to promote fights or if he retired. Considering that he was officially linked to Tommy Gunn and was indirectly responsible for the street fight with Rocky, it is possible that he faced some sort of criminal charge or other controversy, forcing him to retreat into obscurity or retire.
Personality and Traits
- "You a damned fool! Maybe we ought to sign Mrs. Balboa to fight Cane, huh? Looks like she's the only one with the cajones in this family."
- ―George Washington Duke to Rocky Balboa
Duke's character is based off real-life boxing promoter Don King. He is a very charismatic, wisecracking, and manipulative person. Duke does whatever it takes in order to get what he wants, even going as far to suggest that despite Balboa's medical record, he could still use his influence to get Balboa a boxing license anywhere in the world. Duke is also very arrogant and selfish, seemingly only caring for his own interests and nobody else's Duke seems to have a lot of influence on fighters, but barely any loyalty, an example of this is when he takes Union Cane to the title, but then seemingly dumps him for the "hotter" fighter, Tommy Gunn.
- "C'mon, punk. Touch me and I'll sue." - George Washington Duke to Rocky Balboa.
- "No, no. In the ring. In the ring. Tommy Gunn only fights in the ring." - George Washington Duke to Rocky Balboa.
- "No, you still have marquee value. You put butts in the buckets, asses in the seats. A businessman, with any sorta brain, don't retire when he can still pull in the bread, baby. " - George Washington Duke in reference to Rocky Balboa's retirement.
- "I'm talking about a fantastic international extravaganza to be held in Japan called "Letting It Go In Tokyo"!'' - George Washington Duke pitching a title fight against Union Cane to Rocky Balboa.
- "You a damned fool! Maybe we ought to sign Mrs. Balboa to fight Cane, huh? Looks like she's the only one with the cajones in this family." - George Washington Duke to Rocky Balboa.
- He is based on real-life boxing promoter Don King. Duke is such an obvious parody of Don King that he even utters King's catchphrase: "Only in America..."
- Duke is portrayed by Richard Gant.
- He is the second character in the series to be called "Duke", the other being Tony "Duke" Evers, a character who was once Apollo Creed's trainer and later Rocky Balboa's. This has led to some confusion, since Tommy Morrison (Tommy Gunn's actor) was nicknamed "The Duke".