“To all my young fans out there, I’d ask that you no longer see me as a role model, but see me as an individual that had the opportunity to be a role model, and blew it..”
These were the words of a man who had peaked very early and never understood it.
This is the story of Tommy Morrison;
Tommy Morrison was born on the 2nd of January 1969. He was born into a boxing family. His father(Tim), grandfather, and great grand father were all boxers. Growing up, Tommy was popular among his colleagues and always adored by all and sundry(especially the females) mainly for his physical looks and charisma.
As expected, Tommy followed the footsteps of his predecessors and developed interest in boxing. At the age of 13, he was already competing with opponents who were twice his age. He even forged a fake ID(claiming he was older than his actual age) just to compete in some youth competitions.
Tommy had an excellent amateur boxing record of 290 wins, 21 losses, and 260 KOs(knockouts), and in 1988, he began his career as a pro boxer.
As a pro, Tommy immediately announced himself to the world. He gained a reputation as a ‘special power-puncher’ with very fast reflexes, winning 17 of his first 21 bouts by knockout, his excellent boxing abilities earned him the nickname, “The Duke”.
Tommy’s meteoric rise earned him different roles, including being featured in the “ESPN Night Fights” , where he performed as expected, his escapades attracted the attention of movie producer Frank Stallone(brother to movie star, Sylvester Stallone) who at the time was in search of a young muscular athlete to play the role of Tommy Gunn in Rocky V. In no time Tommy got the role, which he played to perfection. He was then left with the options of either fully facing an acting career or continuing his boxing career. Without reluctance, Tommy chose the latter option, he continued his boxing career.
Tommy’s return to boxing went well as expected, he knocked out majority of his opponents and went on a 22 match winning streak. Tommy’s consistency led to many thinking that he was now fit enough to fight Mike Tyson (who at the time was one of the best boxers in the world). A few months later, Tommy earned his first title shot, he faced “The merciless” Ray Mercer. The fight started well for Tommy as he was ahead until the fifth round where Mercer bombarded him with many unanswered punches, and Tommy “The Duke” Morrison was down. Mercer emerged victorious, retaining the championship.
The loss to Mercer was a hard pill to swallow for Morrison, and for 3 months, he stayed completely away from the gym. Morrison came back stronger, and he won eight consecutive fights by knockout, this earned him a second shot at a heavyweight championship.
His opponent was George Foreman who was making his return after a 10-year break from boxing. The match was hotly anticipated to be a huge showdown, because both boxers were very good punchers.
The match went all 12 rounds, and Morrison won by a unanimous decision, and now took the title of the new WBO heavyweight champion.
After the match with George Foreman, Morrison’s physique started to change noticeably, he became a bit more plump, losing some of his boyish looks. Also, some of his boxing abilities had reduced, he no longer possessed those fast and swift reflexes he used to have. Just a few months later, Morrison’s title reign was over. He lost to Michael Bentt. His loss to Bentt was considered by many as an upset because at the time, he(Bentt) just had a pro career record of 10-1.
The loss to Bentt was the beginning of Morrison’s end. He made friends with the wrong people and they influenced him into doing things that were unhealthy for his career. They influenced him into heavy drinking, drug addiction, constant partying, and nymphomania(an uncontrollable sexual desire for women).
Morrison occasionally had fights, one of which he faced former No.1 contender, Donovan “Razor” Ruddock. He stopped Ruddock in the sixth round and would then go on to face former champion Lennox Lewis.
The Lewis-Morrison bout was a one-sided affair with Lewis dropping Morrison four(4) times, and cutting his right eye. The match ended in the sixth round, and Lewis emerged victorious.
After the defeat to Lewis, Morrison had a few more fights, including a match against Marcus Rhode, where he emerged victorious following a first round knockout.
Tragedy came knocking on Morrison’s door on February 1996, when the world recieved a devastating news that he had tested positive for HIV and was thereby suspended from boxing. The news came as a huge blow to Morrison. All his friends deserted him, he was all alone. A few years after his diagnosis, Morrison began to get in trouble with the law. He was caught on several occasions illegally possessing weapons and drugs. His life was turning into a mess.
A glimmer of hope came for him when he partnered with retired L.A. Lakers basketball legend(who was also diagnosed with HIV), Earvin “magic” Johnson as an advocate to enlighten people more about the virus. Morrison’s life seemed to be coming back to normal. He now visited the gym to keep fit, took his drugs regularly, and even got married again.
However, in 2006, Morrison resurfaced with a claim that he was no longer HIV positive. He stopped taking his medications, and went back to taking hard drugs. His new behaviour took a huge tow on his health, and as a result, his health deteriorated so bad to the extent that he looked a completely different person from his normal self.
He was bedridden for over a year from what his mother(Diana Morrison) described as “full blown AIDS”. In describing her son’s condition, she stated that she no longer wanted him to keep fighting but to go. ” I didn’t tell him to keep fighting or nothing, because I want him to go”, she said.
Sadly, on the 1st of September, 2013, Morrison lost his final fight(to AIDS), he suffered a cardiac arrest resulting from multiple organ failure, and passed away at the young age of 44.
Tommy Morrison’s story is one which should serve as a lesson to every young person out there, no matter how far you think you’ve gone, no matter how big you think you’ve made it, never get carried away, keep striving hard because the gate to hell is right next to heaven’s door.