The Rocky movies have been about legacy ever since the numerous sequels to Sylvester Stallone’s 1976 box-office smash began rolling out. So it’s hardly surprising that the L-word features heavily in Creed.

Ryan Coogler’s spin-off from the Rocky Balboa franchise follows the efforts of Adonis Creed (Michael B Jordan) to make a name for himself in the ring in which his father, Apollo, lost his life several years ago. Rocky (Stallone), who still gets moist-eyed at the memory of his friend’s demise, initially refuses to coach Adonis when the young man comes knocking at his Philadelphia home. In keeping with one of the many boxing movie traditions invoked by that Creed, a full-throated yes follows a half-hearted no.

Other genre elements include the rousing training montage, the initial obstacles and misunderstandings, the decisive match that is a prelude to the big one (fabulously presented as an interrupted single take), the parallels between boxing and life, and the soaring emotional climax that is aimed at making fists punch and tears flow. It’s an exceedingly familiar yarn, but woven afresh with undeniable enthusiasm and energy by director and writer Ryan Coogler. Creed’s immersive and intimate documentary-style camerawork is a nod to the indie roots that were responsible for Coogler’s Fruitvale Station in 2013, while the balance between drama and melodrama is an acknowledgement of why Rocky became a pop culture touchstone in the first place.

The double punch of blows and sniffles, which has influenced countless boxing films since, is delivered over the stooped shoulders of Stallone, who is one of the movie’s producers. The father-son bond between Balboa and Creed is contrived and often ladles out more emotion than the story can handle, but it has its moments of deftness and wit. Rocky fans will recognise the many cues and nods to Balboa’s previous adventures (including the iconic Philadelphia Steps sequence), and the 69-year-old Stallone gives one of his most affectionate performances. Balboa is cheekily called “Unc” and “old man” by Adonis, and Stallone acts his age, hanging onto the ropes as his new protégé tears around in the ring.

Jordan makes an effective pugilist, and Creed’s touching relationship with singer Bianca (Tessa Thompson) gives the lock-jawed actor an occasion to show off his acting chops. Set in a realistic and convincing boxing sub-culture and featuring people who actually look like they belong to the sweat-filled gyms haunted by pugilists, Creed breathes new life into the franchise by relocating the story to an African American setting. Stallone milked the franchise’s possibilities for six films and stretched Rocky’s working class roots to its maximum potential. Creed sets the boxing movie that Stallone made his own in a new direction. Colour isn’t an issue in Creed, but it’s dancing in the shadows, waiting for a bout of its own.