Tony Burton, who drew on his career as a prizefighter to play boxing trainer Tony “Duke” Evers in all six “Rocky” films, died on Thursday aged 78.Sylvester Stallone, who stars in the franchise, led the tributes after relatives announced Burton’s death in a southern California hospital from suspected pneumonia following a long illness.
Burton, who had been living in California for 30 years, played the trainer of Apollo Creed, the antagonist of the first two “Rocky” films, before switching to Rocky’s corner in the subsequent movies.”Tony Burton who played the character of Duke brilliantly in all six Rocky movies… Rest in peace,” Stallone said on the Instagram photo-sharing site, posting a still from “Rocky IV” of the pair with Apollo Creed actor Carl Weathers.”Sad news. RIP Tony Burton. His intensity and talent helped make the Rocky movies successful,” Weathers tweeted.Burton’s younger sister Loretta “Peaches” Kelley told MLive, a news portal based in his native Michigan, that Burton had been in and out of the hospital over a year.
His ill health prevented him from appearing in Rocky spin-off “Creed,” for which Stallone earned an Oscar nomination, but the character was briefly present.”There’s a scene in the restaurant of that movie where his picture is on the wall,” Kelley told MLive.Burton, who graduated from high school in Flint in 1955, was a city level athlete in football and baseball and won two Flint “Golden Gloves” light heavyweight titles in the 1950s.
He has spoken publicly about turning his life around with study and acting classes after being jailed at the California Institution for Men in Chino, California, for robbery.As well as the “Rocky” films, Burton had scenes in Stanley Kubrick psychological horror “The Shining,” John Carpenter’s action thriller “Assault on Precinct 13″ and Sydney Poitier comedy “Stir Crazy.”Burton outlived his son, Martin, who died of a heart attack two years ago, but is survived by his wife of 36 years, Rae.