Burton was born in Flint, Michigan, and was a pro boxer and football player before appearing with Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers in the Rocky films as the trainer for Apollo Creed and Rocky.
“Duke” trained Apollo Creed in the first two films of the series, and then he trained Rocky in Rocky III and beyond, helping Rocky clobber Clubber Lang (Mr T) and Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren).
Tony had not been well in the past few years, and as a matter of fact, his family reported that health issues prevented him from seeing the "Creed" movie that came out last fall, in which the Duke character appeared in flashback clips from old movies.
We will remember him always for one great line in the first "Rocky." If you boil that movie down to one sentence, then it was his line that says it all:
He doesn't know it's a damn show! He thinks it's a damn fight!
That's what Duke said to Apollo between two of the rounds in the epic prizefight. Apollo had given Rocky, a mob legbreaker and part-time boxing palooka, a chance at the crown as hype for the American Bicentennial hoopla in 1976, and expected his opponent to drop to the canvas like Gerald Ford on an airplane stairway.
But no. Rocky showed up ready to make the chance of a lifetime pay off, and thereby hung the tale. To me, that encapsulates the message of the movie. Thanks, Tony Burton!
So many times, we just go through the steps of this hokey-pokey game we call "Life" without putting our whole self in. Sometimes, we can get what we've always wanted by putting on our gloves and fighting for it.
So who knew that Sylvester Stallone, writer of the Rocky movies, was such a deep philosopher? He wrote that first picture script, but Hollywood wanted to get an established star to play the lead. He fought for it and won. Just like the fictional guy, when he got his chance he gave it everything.
Dear Readers, I promise not to be this ponderous every day. Tomorrow, I'll go back to whining about bad drivers and lukewarm coffee.