Rocky star Tony Burton dies aged 78

Chloe Best

Tony Burton, the actor who played Tony 'Duke' Evers in Rocky has passed away at the age of 78. The former football player and boxer starred alongside Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers in the first six films of the franchise, in which he played Apollo Creed's trainer.

Carl tweeted his condolences after news of his death emerged on Thursday night.

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Tony Burton has passed away aged 78

"Sad news. RIP Tony Burton. His intensity and talent helped make the Rocky movies successful. #BePeace," he wrote.

His former classmate Gerald Moore said: "It's just like someone in my own family passed. Whenever we got together we would reminisce on old times."

Tony had been in and out of hospital for the past year, but his younger sister Loretta Kelley told MLive.com that he had never received an official diagnosis.

Tony played Apollo Creed's trainer Tony 'Duke' Evers in the first six films

Sadly due to his illness, Tony was unable to see Creed, the most recent Rocky film which saw Sylvester Stallone reprise his role as Rocky Balboa – and earned him an Oscar nomination.

"There's a scene in the restaurant of that movie where his picture is on the wall," his sister said. "We didn't talk about (Rocky) a lot. I mean we were excited, but other people were more excited."

Tony grew up in Flint, Michigan, where he was known as a talented football and baseball player in the 1950s. He went on to win two Flint Golden Gloves light heavyweight boxing titles in 1955 and 1957, before pursuing an acting career.

The actor lived in Los Angeles for the last 30 years, and while he was best known for the Rocky series, he also had memorable roles in The Shining and Stir Crazy in the 1970s.