Thoughts on the Late Boxer, Tommy Morrison


He was known as “Tommy Gunn”, for his role in the fifth entry in the succesful “Rocky” movie series.  As a professional boxer he was better known as “The Duke” for being the grand nephew of motion picture legend John Wayne.  Tommy Morrison was as tragic a figure as any who populated the boxing world, as compelling a character as any played by his famous uncle.  In the final anaylysis he was the victim of timing and life itself.  Boxing would become the only way out for a young boy born to an abusive father, a mother who would be charged with murder before he was five years old, and had a brother who spent fifteen years in prison for rape.  After lying about his age to become eligible to take part in an early form of martial arts competition, Morrison eventually emerged as a heavyweight boxer, compiling a 19-0 record with 15 knockouts in 1989, which caught the eye of Sylvester Stallone, who was casting his 1990 “Rocky V” release, and Morrison got the role of a Rocky protege turned antagonist, who goaded the “Italian Stallion” into a street fight.  Tommy Morrison’s star was on the rise, an unbeaten heavyweight with a movie star profile, the perfect package for television and pay per view.  But timing was never on Morrison’s side.  At every turn he found himself in a division of boxing dominated by a seemingly unbeatable punching machine named Mike Tyson and, for anyone not named Mike Tyson, stars went up and down at a meteoric pace.  His first shot at a title, in 1991, did not go well, a fifth round knockout by WBO champ Ray Mercer, and even though he went on to win six fights in 1992 it would be another year before he got another title shot.  In 1993 he claimed the WBO title from George Foreman, in 1995 he lost it to Lennox Lewis, who, ironically, would open up the landscape for young up and comers in 2002 by taking out the, then, 35 year old Tyson.  Then came the moment that would remain pivotal in Tommy Morrison’s life.  Preparing for a fight in Las Vegas in 1996 he was stripped of his license by the Las Vegas Boxing Commission for an HIV positive blood test.  He would never fight a legitimate fight again.  In 2007, claiming the Vegas tests were false positives, he had one fight that boxing writers claimed was a “set up” and a “fake”.  Life became a series of setbacks for Tommy Morrison, with multiple convictions for DUI, assault, and drugs and weapons charges.  Tommy Morrison died over the weekend in a Nebraska hosptital at the age of 44.  While his family did not disclose the cause of his death his mother claimed he died of AIDS, a disease he denied to the end ever having.  Twenty short years ago Tommy “Gunn”, “The Duke” Morrison was a golden boy in a sport that chews them up and spits them out like no other, a sport in which the way down can be much more ruthless than the way up is glorious, two lessons he learned only too well.  As it is with too many in a sport who go from being it’s heroes to being it’s victims, time was never on Tommy Morrison’s side.  With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.


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