Tony Burton, who played the boxing trainer Tony "Duke" Evers in the long-running Rocky movie franchise, passed away in Los Angeles earlier today, at the age of 78. M Live confirmed the actor's death with his sister, Loretta "Peaches" Kelly. His sister revealed that the actor had been hospitalized several times over the past year, but he was never officially diagnosed with any illness at the time of his death. Due to his health, the actor was never able to see the Rocky spinoff Creed.

Tony Burton was born March 23, 1937 in Flint, Michigan, USA, and long before he portrayed Apollo Creed's (Carl Weathers) trainer Duke in all six Rocky movies, the actor was a boxer himself. Tony Burton won two Flint Golden Gloves trophies in the light heavyweight division in 1955 and 1957, after excelling in football and baseball for Flint Northern High School. He went on to box professionally, with a 16-3 professional boxing record, and he once held the Light-Heavyweight Championship of Arizona.

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After appearing in a number of guest starring TV show roles throughout the mid-1970s, Tony Burton landed the Duke Evers role in Rocky, along with a role in another 1970s classic, Assault on Precinct 13. Along with Sylvester Stallone and Burt Ward, Tony Burton is the only other actor to appear in all six Rocky movies. While he didn't appear in Creed, he is seen in a photograph in Rocky Balboa' restaurant. Wood Harris played Duke's son, Tony 'Little Duke' Evers, who runs Apollo's gym, the Delphi Boxing Academy.

Aside from the Rocky franchise, Tony Burton also starred in The Shining, Stir Crazy, Inside Moves, Armed and Dangerous, House Party 2, Hook and Shade. He retired from acting in 2007, one year after starring in Rocky Balboa. The actor is survived by his wife Rae and one child.

Rocky star Carl Weathers expressed his condolences on his Twitter page earlier today, as did the official Twitter account of MGM Studios, which distributes all of the Rocky. Will you be watching the Rocky movies this weekend to honor the late Tony Burton? Chime in with your thoughts below.