Best known for his role as Tony “Duke” Evers, the corner man in six episodes of the Rocky franchise, American actor, comedian, boxer, football player Anthony “Tony” Burton was born on this day, March 23, 1937 in Flint, Michigan.
A Flint Northern High School graduate Burton was a two-time all-state football player. At Northern, he played halfback In 1954, he scored 13 touchdowns and led his team in scoring. Many of his scoring runs were of 50 yards or more. He gained 820 yards rushing that year, and one of his runs was for 95 yards. That same year, 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 honorable mention.
A Michigan Golden Gloves heavyweight boxing champion, Burton’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. Boxing in such avenues as Palm Springs, Los Angeles, and Hollywood, California, the 6 feet 200 pound Burton knocked-out among others, Bob Smith and Denny Chaney.
Burton’s most important match was an April 4, 1959 6th round knockout defeat at the hands of undefeated Lamar Clark at Palm Springs, California. Clark was the 10th rated heavyweight and had won 38 straight knockouts. Burton gave as good as he got for 5 rounds, but Clark’s relentless mauling style finally wore him dow Lamar Clark, the knock-out artist, holds the record for most consecutive knockouts at 44, was more than a match for Burton.
After boxing, Burton wound up in prison, doing three and a half years for robbery at the California Institution for Men in Chino, California. It was in prison, Burton was introduced to acting.
Working with small theater companies in and around Los Angeles. Burton garnered positive reviews early on. Among his many credits Burton had a co-starring role in Frank’s Place and parts in films, such as Stir Crazy and The Toy. He also appeared as Wells, one of the prisoners trapped in the besieged police station, Precinct 9, Division 13, and in John Carpenter’s 1976 Howard Hawks-inspired action film, Assault on Precinct 13.
He later starred in the Rocky films as a trainer to Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) and Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Along with Sylvester Stallone and Burt Young, he was the only other actor to have appeared in all six ‘Rocky’ movies.
He had guest appearances in Kojak, The Rockford Files, CHiPs, Twin Peaks, and The A-Team. Burton remained a life member of the Actors Studio.
In 1993, Burton was inducted into the Greater Flint Afro-American Hall of Fame. He died February 25, 2016.