'Rocky' boxer Tommy Morrison dies at 44
APOMAHA, Nebraska--Tommy Morrison, a former heavyweight champion who gained fame for his role in the movie “Rocky V,” has died. He was 44.
September 4, 2013, 2:20 am TWN
Morrison died Sunday night at a Nebraska hospital, said Tony Holden, his longtime promoter and close friend. The family would not disclose the cause of death.
In 1993, Morrison beat Foreman to win the WBO heavyweight title, only to lose it to unheralded Michael Bentt in a defeat that scuttled a showdown with Lewis. Morrison would fight Lewis a couple of years later, getting knocked out in the sixth round.
Morrison, nicknamed “The Duke,” never reached the status of such contemporaries as Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, but it was surely a full career. He was a prodigious puncher whose bid to fight in the 1988 Seoul Olympics ended at the hands of Ray Mercer. He had a starring role in “Rocky V” alongside Sylvester Stallone. And perhaps most memorably, Morrison tested positive for HIV when the virus still carried a significant stigma, only to declare later the test was false.
“If Tommy was fighting today, he no doubt would be a world champion,” Holden said.
Morrison won his first 28 professional fights, beating faded champions such as Pinklon Thomas along the way. His career reached its apex in the summer of 1993 with a unanimous decision over Foreman to claim a vacant title.
Morrison was in line for a high-profile bout with Lewis when he was upset by Bentt. Morrison came back, but he was never the same feared fighter. He beat a bunch of long shots and faded stars over the next couple of years before his loss to Lewis. That fight happened in October 1995. By February 1996, Morrison had tested positive for HIV.
Morrison said at a news conference he'd never fight again, blaming his plight on a “permissive, fast and reckless lifestyle.” His lifestyle never changed, though.
He had already run afoul of the law in 1993, when he pleaded guilty to assaulting a college student. He also dealt with weapons charges and multiple DUI incidents over the years. He was finally sentenced to two years in prison in 2000, and another year was added to his sentence in 2002 for violating parole.
When he was released, Morrison said his HIV tests had resulted in false positives, and he wanted to resume his career. He passed medical tests in Arizona — even as Nevada stood by its decision — and returned to the ring. Morrison fought twice more in his career, winning once in West Virginia and for the final time in Mexico. He finished with a record of 48-3-1 with 42 knockouts.
“Tommy's a very stubborn person and he views things the way he wants to view things. That's his right and privilege,” Holden said. “All through his career, him and I would come not to physical blows but disagreements on certain things. We always ended up friends. That was Tommy.”