Tony Burton
Tony Burton

Tony Burton played the part of Tony "Duke" Evers in the Rocky film series.

Personal Information
Born: March 23, 1937(1937-03-23)
Birthplace: Flint, Michigan, U.S.
Died: February 25, 2016 (aged 78)
Deathplace: Menifee, California, U.S.
Occupation: Actor/Athlete
Years active: 1957–2007
Character information
Character played: Tony "Duke" Evers

Tony Burton (born Anthony Burton on March 23, 1937 – February 25, 2016) appeared as Tony "Duke" Evers, Apollo Creed's trainer in the first three films in the Rocky series, After the death of Creed in the Rocky IV film, Burton's character Duke would train and befriend Rocky Balboa, training him for the fight against Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, then against Mason Dixon in Rocky Balboa. Upon the death of costar Burgess Meredith, Burton became the oldest living principle castmember and after his passing, the honor was then bestowed onto Carl Weathers.


Early life & football careerEdit

Born in Flint, Michigan, Tony, a Flint Northern High School graduate, he was a Michigan Golden Gloves heavyweight boxing champion and two-time all-state football player.

At Northern High, he played halfback. In 1954 he scored 13 touchdowns and led his team in scoring. Many of the scoring runs were of 50 yards or more. He gained 820 yards rushing that year and one of his runs was for 95 yards. In 1954, he was selected to the first teams of the All City and All Valley teams as a halfback. He was also chosen as an All State honourable mention. He was the team's co-captain and Most Valuable Player. Tony led his team in yards gained and receiving yards. In one game against Grand Rapids Catholic, he gained 213 total yards.

Also there at Northern High, Tony was also the leading baseball pitcher, pitching the team to the city championship title.

Boxing careerEdit

Tony's boxing career included the Flint Golden Gloves light heavyweight championship in 1955 and 1957. Burton won the State Golden Gloves Light Heavyweight Championship in 1957 and lost in the Chicago Tournament of Champions semi-finals. He fought as a professional boxer in 1958 and 1959. During that time he was knocked out by knockout artist Lamar Clark who holds the record for most consecutive knockouts at 44.[1]


Life after boxing minus any marketable skills or a high school diploma proved a poor formula for success, and before long, Burton wound up in prison, doing three and a half years for robbery at the California Institution for Men in Chino, California. In the end, it proved a valuable experience, as Burton recounted to NEA's Frank Sanello in March 1988:

"Prison for me was productive because I got my high school diploma and a degree from the University of California. But most important, I got myself together and found out who I was and how I could proceed without destroying myself."
More specifically, one of the skills acquired at Chino landed Burton his current wife, Rae, whom he met on a TV repair house call. Moreover, a workshop in the prison that used psychodrama as a form of therapy pointed Burton towards his current career, when an emotional breakthrough achieved by one of his partners in an acting exercise demonstrated dramatically theatre's potential power, on both sides of the footlights.[2]

Acting careerEdit

After prison, Burton started getting work with small theatre companies in and around Los Angeles, garnering favourable notices early on.[3][4]

A life member of The Actors Studio,[5] Burton numbers among his many credits a co-starring role on the 1980s CBS comedy-drama Frank's Place and parts in films such as Hook, and The Toy. Burton is also known for his role as Wells, one of the prisoners trapped in the besieged police station, Precinct 9, Division 13, in John Carpenter's 1976, Howard Hawks-inspired action film Assault on Precinct 13. He also starred in the Rocky films as a trainer to Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) and Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone).


In 1993, Tony was inducted into the Greater Flint Afro-American Hall of Fame. Burton also is known as a talented chess player. Master chess player Stanley Kubrick was defeated by him on the set of The Shining, in which Burton played Larry the garage owner. Speaking with Kubrick biographer Vincent LoButto, Burton recalled his first day on the set:

My contract was for a week. I just had two short scenes in the movie. I stayed for six weeks because Stanley and I were playing chess... Stanley was a stronger player than I but I was strong enough to give him sufficient struggle to where he enjoyed it. I beat him in the first or second game we played, and then I didn't win any more after that, but it was always a tight struggle. That's what he loved; I guess there was no one else around that played strong."[6]

Personal life and deathEdit

Tony had been residing in Southern California for nearly 40 years. He was married and attended Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, California.

On February 25, 2016, he died at the age of 78, from complications of pneumonia at a Southern California hospital in Menifee, California. Burton had been in and out of the hospital according to his sister.


  1. Lamar Clark's professional boxing record at BoxRec
  2. Sanello, Frank: "Burton Letting Truth Be Told About His Checkered Past". The Bowling Green Daily News. March 11, 1988.
  3. Harford, Margaret: "'Burning of Lepers' Indicts Prejudice". The Los Angeles Times. February 15, 1966. "Tony Burton, Lou Wagner, Brad Derek, and Tim O'Kelly are good in smaller roles and Lenore Waring, Fran Richards and Carol Lacey add some distaff interest to other roles."
  4. Harford, Margaret: "Stage Review: 'Visigoths' at Santa Monica". The Los Angeles Times. February 5, 1969. "The acting tends to be abysmal, but Winston Thrash, Tony Burton, and Horace Hinkle are good as the militant blacks."
  5. Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc.. p. 277. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
  6. Stanley Kubrick: A Biography, by Vincent LoButto, by Da Capo Press, Inc., New York, 1999, ISBN 0-306-80906-0 432 pages (Chapter: Let's Go Again).

External linksEdit

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