Tony Burton, the actor who played Apollo Creed’s boxing trainer Tony “Duke” Evers in the “Rocky” movies, has died. He was 78.
The former football player and boxer appeared alongside Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers in the first six films of the hit franchise as Apollo Creed’s trainer.
Weathers confirmed Burton’s death in a heartfelt tweet Thursday night.
— Carl Weathers (@TheCarlWeathers) February 26, 2016
Burton, from Flint, Michigan, had been in and out of the hospital for the past year, but never received an official diagnosis, his younger sister Loretta “Peaches” Kelley told the Michigan news site MLive.com.
Sadly, due to his poor health, Burton wasn’t able to see the 2015 film “Creed,” the blockbuster film centered on the son of Rocky’s rival Apollo.
“There’s a scene in the restaurant of that movie where his picture is on the wall,” Kelley said. “We didn’t talk about [‘Rocky’] a lot. I mean we were excited, but other people were more excited. Whenever he would come home other people would just come over.”
Burton graduated from Flint Northern High School in 1955. He played football and made All-City and All-Valley teams as a halfback in 1954, while also leading the Vikings baseball team to a city title as a pitcher, too.
As a boxer, he won two Flint Golden Gloves light heavyweight titles in 1955 and 1957, then briefly fought professionally before starting his acting career.
The former athlete also served three and a half years in prison for robbery at the California Institution for Men in Chino, California, but said the sentence was ultimately “productive” as he earned his high school diploma and a college degree while behind bars.
Along with the “Rocky” franchise, Burton also appeared in “The Shining,” “Stir Crazy,” “The Toy” and “Assault on Precinct 13.”
Burton had been living in California for 30 years with his wife, Rae, before his death. His son, Martin, died of a heart attack at age 43 on May 8, 2014.
See video of his warm-up speech to Stallone from 2006’s “Rocky Balboa” below.