LOS ANGELES, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Actor and former athlete Tony Burton, who played boxing trainer Tony "Duke" Evers in the Rocky films, has died, his family announced. He was 78.
Burton's sister, Loretta Kelley, said her brother's health had been failing for some time, causing him to be in and out of the hospital for a year. He never received an official diagnosis, Kelley said, according to MLive.
Burton appeared in the first six Rocky movies opposite Sylvester Stallone. During the first two films, he played the trainer of Rocky Balboa's opponent, Apollo Creed. He ultimately became Rocky's trainer in the next two films.
A Flint, Mich., native, Burton was known as a hard-working athlete who excelled in football, baseball and boxing. The inductee of the Greater Flint Afro-American Hall of Fame also was once a professional boxer.
Kelley said Burton's health kept him from seeing the latest film in the Rocky universe, Creed. His character makes an appearance in the form of a flashback in the MGM film, but it was taken from earlier stock footage.
Burton also appeared in the films The Shining, Stir Crazy and The Toy, and in 2007 played Sheriff Stoker in the comedy-horror film Hack!
MGM Studios also paid homage to Burton on Twitter writing, "Rest in Peace, Tony."