On the 40th anniversary of ‘Rocky II’, actor and director Sylvester Stallone said he is “incredibly grateful” to the audience for accepting and loving the characters from his boxing sports-drama franchise.The actor, who starred as Rocky Balboa, the eponymous southpaw boxer from Philadelphia, also wrote and directed the blockbuster sequel which hit theatres on June 15, 1979. In his Instagram post, Sylvester Stallone recalled the characters – Rocky’s beloved wife Adrian, his trainer-manager Mickey Goldmill and opponent Apollo Creed.“A heartfelt thank you for accepting these characters and their stories into your lives! It seems like only yesterday when Adrian was telling me to ‘WIN! And Mickey pushing me to be an ‘Italian Tank! and go through him!’ “… and finally the battle with the amazing Apollo Creed… So lucky I am, and incredibly grateful after all this time and I shall always be, Keep punching, Sly,” he posted on Sunday.Talia Shire played Adrian, Burgess Meredith starred as Mickey and Carl Weathers was seen as Apollo. Stallone, 72, shared a screenshot of an article touting the movie as the “ultimate sequel”.The film picks up from where 1976’s original left, with Rocky expecting a good life after a split decision loss to Apollo. But after he fails at both ads and a series of low wage jobs, Rocky realises boxing is his means to survival.On the other hand, Apollo is facing sharp criticism from fans. He challenges Rocky to a rematch, which Apollo loses. It’s a win-win for both the boxers as Rocky is declared the World Heavyweight Champion for the first time also earning his opponent’s respect and Apollo regaining his fan base after a fair fight.