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"You gotta punch and punch until you can't punch anymore. This is your whole life here. Do it now. NOW!"
―Tony "Duke" Evers

Tony "Duke" Evers (born May 27th, 1938) is an American former professional boxer, former owner of the Delphi Boxing Academy, and boxing trainer.

Duke's final boxing match was a loss to the young up and coming Apollo Creed. Creed asked for Duke's guidance following the fight and Duke agreed to help train and manage Apollo. Sometime in the next few years, Duke opened up the Delphi Boxing Academy, a boxing gym for boxers to train at, Apollo Creed trained in this gym for many years while he was the Heavyweight Champion.

In 1976 (Rocky), Duke trains Creed for a match-up against an unknown opponent at the time, Rocky Balboa. Creed is caught by surprise when Balboa throws everything at him and survives the 12 rounds, but Creed is still able to win by split decision. In 1978 (Rocky II), Creed challenges Balboa to a rematch against Duke's wishes. Duke implies that it may not be the smartest choice for Creed to take the fight, but despite Duke's words, Creed still takes the fight. Duke trains Creed for the fight and on this occasion Creed loses by KO in the 12th round, suffering his first ever loss and losing his Heavyweight title. In 1982 (Rocky III), Apollo Creed has been retired for a few years now and Duke is presumed to be training other fighters at the Delphi Boxing Academy. Meanwhile, Rocky Balboa has been on top of the world, generating ten successful title defences, but when Balboa loses his championship to Clubber Lang and his trainer Mickey Goldmill dies, Apollo Creed steps up and offers to train Balboa along with Duke at his side. Creed takes charge as the main trainer, utilizing skills that he learnt from Duke. Balboa is able to knockout Clubber Lang in the third round following help from Creed and Duke.

In 1985 (Rocky IV), Creed came out of retirement to fight a young Russian boxer that was making his debut on the American stage. Duke again trained Creed for the fight that was meant to just be an exhibition, but tragically Apollo Creed was killed at the hands of the Russian, Ivan Drago. Balboa was in the corner of Creed and had the towel in hand with Duke screaming at him to throw the towel in, but Creed dropped before he could and died in the ring. Duke was very crushed by the loss, saying that Creed was like a son to him. Duke then travelled to Russia with Balboa and helped train/support him for his fight against Drago. Balboa won the fight and Duke told him that Creed would be extremely proud of him.

Duke returned 20 years later in 2006 (Rocky Balboa (film)), Duke now seemingly retired from training, comes back to help Rocky Balboa have one last boxing match. Balboa is set to be fighting the current Heavyweight champion, Mason Dixon. Duke trains Balboa and Balboa ends up losing by split decision.

Along the way, Duke had a son, Tony "Little Duke" Evers. Duke's son followed him into training and eventually took over as full-time trainer at the Delphi Boxing Academy.

Biography

Early Life

There isn't much information known about Duke's early life, only that he began his boxing career in the late 1950s and fought until the late 1960s. Duke's last ever fight was against a young Apollo Creed. Creed sought out Duke after their fight, asking him if he would like to train him, stating that he could use a veteran like Duke. Duke thought for a moment, but ultimately agreed and would then rise through the ranks with Apollo, helping him generate a record of 48-0 and claim the Heavyweight Championship.[1]

Rocky

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Duke and Creed react to the cancellation of the Bicentennial fight.

Training Apollo Creed for Creed vs. Balboa 1

Duke Evers was the trainer to the charismatic World Heavyweight Champion, Apollo Creed. A planned Bicentennial fight against number one contender Mac Lee Green was scheduled for 1 January 1976, which Apollo gladly hypes whenever someone places a microphone in front of him. However, Green hurts his left hand in training, and when none of the other top-ranked contenders, such as Ernie Roman and Buddy Shaw, step up to face the champion, Creed responds with a novelty promotion that will generate huge publicity. He will offer an anonymous local fighter an opportunity to battle Creed for the title, in a match on New Year's Day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Creed eventually selects Rocky Balboa, then an unknown club fighter, a shot at the championship.

While Creed dismissed Rocky as a serious threat, Tony appeared to be the only member of Creed's staff who considered Balboa to be a legitimate threat, as he cautioned Creed of his vulnerability against southpaw opponents. Tony also expressed concern while closely observing Rocky's meat freezer sparring session at his friend Paulie's meat factory, which was broadcast on an edition of the evening news, saying to Creed, "Hey champ, you ought to come here and take a look at this kid you're gonna' fight, he looks like he means business". "Yeah, Yeah, I mean business too" Creed replied in a casual and nonchalant tone as he and his entourage focused on business matters from another room. It is during this film where it is learned that Tony is more than just Apollo's trainer, but that they also have a long history and friendship dating back years. Prior to the final round of Creed's title defence against Balboa, Tony unsuccessfully urges Creed to let him stop the fight, and thus forfeit the championship, because he is worried for Apollo's health after it is revealed that he is bleeding internally as a result of Balboa's heavy body shots. Creed is able to pull through and wins by split decision, retaining his Heavyweight title.

Rocky II

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Duke screaming at Creed to stay away from Balboa in the final round.

Training Apollo Creed for Creed vs. Balboa 2

In 1978 (Rocky II), a humiliated Creed, despite winning a split decision, pushes to schedule a rematch with Rocky. However, Tony pleads with Creed to leave Balboa alone as he does not want to see his friend suffer through another bout with Rocky, who had just given Creed the worst beating of his career. As Tony explained to Apollo, "I saw you beat that man like I never seen no man get beat before. And the man kept coming after you. We don't need that kind of man in our lives." This time, a focused Creed trains hard under Tony's tutelage and arrives at the rematch in the best shape of his career. Creed goes on to dominate the majority of the fight, although Tony remains wary of Rocky's punching power and determination. As a result, Tony advises Creed to fight defensive in the final round so as to win the bout on points and thus avoid a potential knockout defeat. During the 15th and final round, Tony frantically screams from Creed's corner for the champ to "Stay away from him!" as Rocky switches to a southpaw stance. Nevertheless, Creed ignores Tony's advice and is subsequently KO'd by Balboa, thus suffering his first ever loss and dropping the championship in the process. Although Tony is saddened by the loss, he realizes Creed dropped the title gracefully, having won back the lost respect of his alienated fans who dismissed the first fight, and also appreciates Rocky's gentlemanly acceptance of the new championship by thanking Creed and Duke for giving their all.

Rocky III

Training Rocky Balboa for Balboa vs. Lang 2

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Creed and Duke in Balboa's corner for his fight against Lang.

With Apollo Creed subsequently retiring after losing the championship, Tony returns to his hometown of Los Angeles, where he continues working with various up-and-coming local fighters at his gym, Delphi Boxing Academy. However, Tony returns to the scene in 1982 (Rocky III) when Apollo Creed takes over as Rocky's manager following Balboa's loss to Clubber Lang and the death of his longtime trainer Mickey Goldmill. Creed brings Rocky to Los Angeles to formally meet Tony, who appears ecstatic over the idea of finally working on the same team of the "Italian Stallion" after the two brutal contests he had with Creed, over the next few months, Creed and Tony completely revamp Balboa's fighting style after a shaky start.

Creed and Duke introduce a more athletic style reminiscent of Creed's skilled boxing repertoire, as opposed to Rocky's traditional slugging technique. Moreover, Creed and Tony (along with Rocky's wife Adrian) also help to rebuild Rocky's self-esteem, which is left shattered after his knockout by Lang and the revelation that Mickey had handpicked some of his prior opponents in an effort to prevent him from serious injury, and to keep him winning. As a result, Apollo and Tony essentially take in Rocky as one of their own family after the loss of Mickey, who had served as Rocky's father figure during the course of his career. By the time his rematch with Lang rolls around, Rocky is a rejuvenated boxer, and Apollo and Tony celebrate by his side after he regains the championship after a third round KO of Lang.

Rocky IV & Rocky V

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Duke pleading with Balboa to throw the towel in during the Drago vs. Creed fight.

Training Apollo Creed for Creed vs. Drago

Several years later in 1985 (Rocky IV), a now 42-year old Apollo decides to come out of retirement for an exhibition bout against new Soviet sensation Ivan Drago in Las Vegas. However, in a tragic turn of events, Creed is unfortunately killed at the hands of Drago, consequently setting up a grudge match between Balboa and Drago in Moscow on Christmas Day 1985. Upon Creed's death, Tony confides in Balboa that Creed was like his own son and that a piece of him has died along with Apollo.

Training Rocky Balboa for Balboa vs. Drago

Duke takes over as Rocky's main trainer, Tony subsequently travels with Balboa to the Soviet Union and assists Rocky in his training, providing him with encouragement while also telling him that he now stands as the carrier of Apollo's legacy. Rocky would ultimately knock out Drago in the fifteenth round to claim victory. Tony lauds Balboa for his heart and courage, and for vindicating Apollo Creed. However, Rocky begins experience physical complications after the beating he took from Drago, and Tony is sent to inform his wife Adrian. After returning to the U.S., Rocky subsequently announces his retirement from boxing, and Tony presumably returns to the Delphi Boxing Academy in Los Angeles.

Rocky Balboa

Training Rocky Balboa for Balboa vs. Dixon

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Duke during the press conference.

Duke returns to help Balboa again, almost 20 years after Balboa defeated Ivan Drago. In 2006 (Rocky Balboa), Rocky has long since retired and is running a restaurant in Philadelphia following Adrian's death several years earlier. It is unclear whether Tony has continued to train other fighters at the Delphi Boxing Academy, or if he has retired himself. Nevertheless, Tony returns as Rocky's trainer after Balboa agrees to an exhibition bout against the current World Heavyweight Champion Mason Dixon.

Citing that the nearly 60-year old Balboa lacks the speed, stamina, or durability to endure typical training, Tony decides to focus on Rocky's lone remaining asset - his incredible punching power - and develops a regimen focused on strength training and building "hurting bombs". Tony subsequently participates in the fight's press conference, in which Dixon dismisses Balboa's challenge, and states that Rocky always maintains a "puncher's chance". Rocky eventually battles the current champion through all ten rounds and even knocks Dixon down in the second round. Though he loses by split decision, Rocky was unconcerned with the outcome and celebrates his moral victory with Tony, Paulie and his son before leaving the ring.

Creed & Creed II

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Duke's son, Little Duke.

Passing the torch to Little Duke

Duke doesn't appear, but is presumably retired by this stage and has passed the torch onto his son, Tony "Little Duke" Evers, allowing him to run the Delphi Boxing Academy in Los Angeles. In 2015 (Creed), Little Duke refuses to train Adonis Johnson Creed, son of Apollo Creed, due to fear of history repeating itself. In 2018 (Creed II), Creed has reached the top of the boxing world, claiming the Heavyweight Championship. He is then challenged by the son of Ivan Drago, Viktor Drago. Creed's trainer, Balboa opts not to train Creed for the fight, causing Creed to return to the Delphi Boxing Academy, the place his father trained. Creed sought training from Little Duke and he agreed to train Adonis. Creed was brutalised in his first encounter with Drago, suffering a broken orbital bone, broken ribs, ruptured lung, and a concussion.

Creed almost shared the same fate as his father. Despite the dominance, Creed won the fight by DQ due to Drago hitting him when he was down, meaning that he kept his title. Balboa returned for the rematch and joined forces with Little Duke. Both of them took Adonis to the desert in order to strengthen his body, so that he could absorb substantial impact repeatedly and be able to withstand Viktor's deadly punches. It worked and the fight went into the tenth round, Viktor had never gone past the fourth and began to fatigue. Viktor was winning on the scorecard but was unable to defend himself due to fatigue and after Creed knocked him down twice, his father, Ivan Drago decided to throw in the towel for his son, giving Adonis the victory.

Quotes

Trivia

Video games

Tony Duke is a speaking character in the video games Rocky for the Nintendo Gamecube, Sony PlayStation 2, and Microsoft Xbox and Rocky Legends for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. In Rocky, Duke serves as Apollo's manager for Creed as the player (as Rocky) is reenacting the storylines for Rocky I & Rocky II. Duke then joins the player's ringside when Apollo Creed becomes the manager during the Rocky III storyline, and Rocky's manager during the Rocky IV timeline. The role of Tony Duke is expanded during the Rocky V storyline, serving as Rocky's trainer in between fights and manager during fights. Rocky Legends gives more insight to Duke's career. If the player chooses the career path of Apollo Creed, his first fight will be against Tony Duke. After defeating Duke, an outro is shown where Duke congratulates Creed for being a worthy opponent, but says he is getting too old and weak for active boxing and unsure about future employment, to which Creed tells of his plans to make it big in boxing and offers Duke a job as manager, thus explaining the start of their partnership. Players also earn cash during fights, which can be spent to unlock Tony Duke as an active boxer and play as Duke in exhibition matches.


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