Apollo, personified as Channing Tatum, appears as a street hawker in Manhattan but the other hawkers defend their pitch. A fist fight ensues. Apollo is victorious and his victory is noticed by a street hustler. Later The Hustler promises Apollo a better way to make a living through the unregulated fight scene. Promises are made. A series of arranged fights follow. At first Apollo loses or does not get paid. The promises continue.
Apollo has a secret. He is from The South, which he left in disgrace after fighting physically and mentally with his father. His father is a wrestling coach and had favoured another young wrestler over his son and this other wrestler became Apollo's nemesis.
Apollo begins to win his fights and both Apollo and The Hustler get money. There are fights in the urban decay of the South Bronx, fights in up-scale apartments overlooking the park, fights in fancy Chinese brothels. For all their success, The Hustler gains no respect from the fight organisers. They consider The Hustler a loser. But he is a hustler with a heart of gold. Then Apollo finds The Girl. He is persistent. She is not interested. He persists. And the persistence begins to pay off.
Apollo's former nemesis appears. The Nemesis is now a successful fighter on the same scene. He scorns and taunts Apollo. A grudge fight is arranged. The Nemesis is expected to win. In a fancy apartment Apollo and The Nemesis engage in a violent pankration. Apollo wins.
Unknown to The Hustler, Apollo has placed a bet on himself to win. And he wins big time. Apollo gives the money to The Hustler. He is no longer a loser. Apollo and The Girl and The Hustler leave New York, Apollo to reconcile with his father, The Girl to be with Apollo and The Hustler to enjoy his new-found self-respect.