Tony Gazzo (28 October 1936 - 13 January 1989) was a loan shark who employed Rocky Balboa before his boxing career took off in the first film. Rocky was a good club fighter but his purses were often meager and insufficient to himself. To augment his income, Rocky sought out whatever work he could and caught the attention of Gazzo who hired Rocky as muscle. Rocky was responsible for collecting the debts but, despite his fearsome reputation, was reluctant to use violence outside the ring. Rocky once refused Gazzo's orders to break the fingers of one debtor, instead collecting a partial payment. When Gazzo angrily asked why Rocky failed to follow orders, Rocky protests that had he broken the man's fingers, he would not have been able to work and earn the money to repay the rest of the debt. Gazzo, more concerned about reputation than collection, tells Rocky to "leave the thinking to me". Rocky's employment with Gazzo was also a bone of contention for Mickey, who banned him from his gym saying he had potential, but Rocky "fought like an ape" and his was a hired goon for "that loan shark".
Gazzo returns in Rocky II, where he is one of the guests at the small simple wedding of Adrian and Rocky. When married life proves tough for Rocky, as he goes through a dry period of no work, Gazzo says his door is always open for Rocky as they are both of Italian ancestry, and Gazzo is obligated to help out. However, soon afterwards Apollo Creed announces his rematch with Rocky, and Rocky recommends his brother-in-law Paulie Pennino to do his old collection job. During the championship fight with Creed, Gazzo and his girlfriend are in the audience, and proudly cheer Rocky when he wins the belt.
Despite Gazzo being selfish, money hungry and sometimes downright criminal. Gazzo is also quite caring about Rocky, even lending him money so he can take Adrian out somewhere nice for the first date. He supported Rocky both times during his fights with Apollo and seems to be very proud of him, showing that Gazzo is not all bad.
In the novel version of Rocky IV, it is revealed that Gazzo was killed by an unidentified culprit sometime before Rocky traveled to Russia to prepare for his fight with Drago. This also resulted in the death of Gazzo's bodyguard, as he took his own life, either out of extreme guilt for failure to protect his boss or sorrow at losing a friend. However, the novelization differs considerably from the events of the film.