Crowd appeal and raw power – Tommy ‘The Duke’ Morrison

16 Jan 1993: Tommy Morrison celebrates after a bout with Carl Williams in Reno, Nevada. Mandatory Credit: Mark Morrison /Allsport

BULA readers! I pray your Saturday is going well.

This week I received a message from a dear old friend of mine called Joey, who lives in Texas and was connected very closely to a fascinating, fast living and colorful, super star boxer called Tommy Morrison.

Tommy was born in January 1969 in Arkansas and was special from the time he could walk.

As a child he possessed natural athletic ability and was blessed to be the best at whatever sport he participated in.

He took up boxing at the age of 10 and by the time he was 13 years old his parents were faking his ID and entering him into Tough Man Boxing competitions where the minimum age of the contestants was 21.

To add to this bizarre situation, he won all the contests he entered except for three.

In 1988, at the age of 18, Tommy graduated from high school where he was the undisputed tough guy and top athlete of the school.

The world was his oyster now and he was offered a football scholarship at Emporia State University.

He turned this down in favor of a boxing career where as an amateur he amassed over 200 boxing bouts before his 18th birthday.

Tommy, with movie star looks and a phenomenal physique, turned professional at 19 years old and standing at over six-feet-two-inches in height and approximately 105 kilos he racked up a spectacular record of 19 fights, 19 wins and 15 by knockout.

It was during one of his fights that legendry movie actor Sylvester Stallone spotted him and was drawn to his incredible crowd appeal and raw power.

Within a few months Tommy was offered the lead role in the hit boxing movie Rocky V, which he accepted and went on to be a blockbuster film, and Tommy was even hotter property than before, now with acting credentials under his belt.

In 1991, after a six month break because of the filming of Rocky V with Stallone and millions of dollars in the bank, he returned once again to the ring.

He continued to win against credible opponents until he lost a fight for the championship against a tough world champion “Merciless Ray Mercer”.

Picking himself up again he continued on a winning streak until he proved his worth in his 38th professional fight and at 24 years of age took on the formidable boxing legend Big George Foreman.

The bout itself was a strategic one with Tommy electing to box rather than brawl and after 12 exciting rounds he was the new WBO heavyweight champion of the world, a great feat indeed for someone so young.

This was basically the beginning of the end, with millions of dollars to spare, movie star looks, phenomenal punching power, he was a promoter’s dream, but it was life outside the ring that was catching up with him.

There where parties, excessive drinking and a string of girlfriends in every town and he was just not living the life of a professional athlete and that was going to be his downfall.

In September 1996, at the age of 27 the fast life had caught up with him and he tested positive for the HIV virus during a routine blood test just before an important fight.

He had further tests and later held a press conference highlighting that he caught HIV from living a permissive, fast and reckless lifestyle, which could have involved drugs and needles.

It was at this time that he immediately retired from boxing to concentrate on his health. In 2006 at the age of 37 Tommy dramatically decided to accuse the boxing commission that his blood results were wrong and that he in fact was HIV negative.

This was not the case, but Tommy and his wife Trisha believed he was fine and from some accounts Trisha continued to believe there was nothing wrong with Tommy.

It was indeed a sad state of affairs and the couple had now broken ties and estranged themselves from all family and friends including my dear friend Joey.

In August 2013, it was discovered when Tommy’s mother gave an interview, that Tommy had full blown AIDS which was the progression of the dreaded HIV virus.

To make things worse it was discovered that Tommy had been bedridden for over one year living in quite terrible conditions.

Regardless of Tommy being on his death bed and looking like a skeleton his wife Trisha still believed Tommy did not have AIDS and would be better soon.

On September 1 2013 Tommy died at the age of 44 from septicemia, septic shock, multi system organ failure and cardiac arrest, it was considered by health professionals a painful and drawnout death due to the couples’ denial of Tommy having any illness at all.

A truly sad and tragic ending to such a happy, bright and very promising athlete who quite literally had the world at his feet.

Rest In Peace – Tommy “The Duke” Morrison.

  • AJAY BHAI AMRIT is a freelance writer. The views expressed in this article are his and does not necessarily reflect the views of this newspaper.

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