Actor Tony Burton is dead at 78 years old, having passed away on Thursday, February 25. A veteran actor, Burton is best remembered as Tony “Duke” Evers from the Rocky films, the trainer of Rocky Balboa’s rival Apollo Creed and later, Rocky himself. However, this time of mourning is marred by the lack of knowledge into what led to finding the Rocky actor dead. How did Tony Burton die?
Born in Flint, Michigan in 1937, Tony Burton was a football player and boxer in high school, turning the latter into his career, winning several Golden Gloves light heavyweight championships. Following his boxing career coming to an end, Burton would turn to crime, being incarcerated for three-and-a-half years for robbery, though he later said the experience benefited him.
After getting out of prison, Burton worked at minor theater companies in the L.A. area, leading to him being placed into feature films. Besides appearing in six of the seven films in the Rocky franchise, he was also featured in the original Assault on Precinct 13, The Shining, Hook, and House Party 2. The last movie before Burton’s death, Hack!, released in 2007 and saw Burton playing a local sheriff. He was set to appear in The Truth About the War in Heaven: Declaration of War, but that will obviously no longer be happening. Burton also has several TV shows on his resume, including NYPD Blue, Kojak, Twin Peaks, and The A-Team.
Tony Burton’s death was publicly revealed via the Twitter account of Carl Weathers, who played the role of Apollo Creed in the first four Rocky films. Tagging Rocky star Sylvester Stallone and sports reporter Eric Woodyard, Weathers wrote, “Sad news. RIP Tony Burton. His intensity and talent helped make the Rocky movies successful.” Included was the hashtag “BePeace.”
With the Rocky actor dead, questions have arisen regarding the nature of his death. More specifically, the cause is still unknown, and, despite being 78, there’s reason to believe that it was not due to natural causes. According to Burton’s sister, Loretta Kelly, her brother had, in fact, been making regular trips to the hospital over the past year, though she didn’t specify whether or not he would ever have to stay overnight for evaluation.
What’s more, at the time of death, Burton had yet to receive any sort of diagnosis regarding what was bothering him, despite his clearly deteriorating health. By the end, he was in such poor physical condition that he had been unable to see Creed, the recent Rocky spinoff movie about Apollo Creed’s son and the only film in the franchise in which he did not appear proper (old footage featuring Burton from a previous film was used in a flashback). Keep in mind, however, that he simply was too ill to go a movie theater, which is not too unbelievable. Unfortunately, he just missed his chance to watch the film on DVD or Blu-ray; Creed’s home release is this Tuesday, five days after Tony Burton’s untimely passing.