Tony Burton, co-star in six of the Rocky movies, dies at age 78

Okay, it’s movie news not boxing news; but it’s boxing movie news. Actor Tony Burton, who co-starred in six of the seven Rocky films as trainer, Tony “Duke” Evers, has passed away at age 78. Burton’s cause of death has not been made official, BBC News reports, but Burton’s sister, Loretta Kelly said her brother had been in and out of hospital a number of times over the past year.

Burton, who is absent in “Creed,” the latest, and possibly final instalment of the Rocky saga, would likely have appeared in the Rocky spin-off had he been well enough to have worked. A fine actor who was always reliable in a supporting role, Burton is nothing short of superb in Rocky and its sequels. His part growing in each film, Burton, who played the trainer of doomed fighter Apollo Creed, adds a sense of realism to the movies.

Burton had some great scenes/lines, such as when he is, in Rocky II, trying his utmost to persuade Creed not to go anywhere near the carelessly underestimated Rocky Balboa in a rematch: “I saw you beat that man, like I never saw you beat no man before – and he kept coming after you! We don’t need that kind of man in our lives,” Burton as “Duke” tells Apollo, to no avail.

In Rocky IV, after Creed dies – largely due to Apollo himself who, with his last remaining strength in his ill-fated match with Ivan Drago, pleads with Rocky to refrain from throwing the towel (“Throw the damn towel,” Burton’s character demands) – the character played by Burton trains Rocky. Here, Burton gives some of his finest work as a key element in the Rocky series.

Burton is also excellent in 2006’s Rocky Balboa, where he again has some great lines:

“What we’ll be calling on is blunt force trauma,” Evers says to the ageing Rocky ahead of his unlikely shot against new heavyweight king Mason Dixon. “We’ve got to hit this guy so hard he’ll think he tried kissing the expressway!”

Burton was effortless in the role that made him famous. His co-star, Carl Weathers, Tweeted how saddened he is at his passing.

“Sad News. RIP Tony Burton. His intensity and talent helped make the Rocky movies successful,” Weathers wrote.

Indeed.