Tommy Morrison

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Tommy Morrison
File:Tommy Morrison at Chiller Theatre, 2011.jpg
Morrison in 2011
Real name Tommy David Morrison
Nickname(s) The Duke
Rated at Heavyweight
Height 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Reach 76 in (193 cm)
Born (1969-01-02)January 2, 1969
Gravette, Arkansas, U.S.
Died September 1, 2013(2013-09-01) (aged 44)
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 52
Wins 48
Wins by KO 43
Losses 3
Draws 1

Tommy David Morrison (January 2, 1969 – September 1, 2013), nicknamed "The Duke", was an American professional boxer who held the WBO heavyweight title. He won 48 of 52 professional fights, and retired from boxing in 1996 when he tested positive for HIV. He appeared in the 1990 Sylvester Stallone boxing film Rocky V.

Morrison attempted a comeback in 2006, claiming he had tested negative for HIV.[1] In August 2013, Morrison's mother announced that her son was in the final stages of AIDS,[2] and he died on September 1, 2013.[3]

Early life and amateur boxing

Morrison was born in Gravette, Arkansas. His mother, Diana, was of Native American descent, while his father's side was of majority Scottish descent. [4] Morrison was raised in Delaware County, Oklahoma, spending most of his teenage years in Jay.[5] Morrison's nickname, "The Duke", is based on the claim that he was related to Hollywood star John Wayne (né Marion Morrison).[6] Morrison's older brother Tim Jr boxed and his father urged him to take up the sport at the age of ten. At the age of 13, Morrison claimed he used a fake ID and entered fifteen "toughman" contests (the minimum age for contestants was 21). He later told The New York Times that he lost only one of these supposed matches.[7]

Morrison's mother was acquitted of a murder charge four decades ago. His father, Tim Sr, was abusive; he would get drunk and beat Morrison as well as his mother. Tim was also a perpetual philanderer until Diana finally left him. Morrison's brother, Tim Jr., spent 15 years in prison for rape.[8][9]

In 1988, Morrison won the Regional Heavyweight Title – Kansas City Golden Gloves from Donald Ellis and advanced to the National Golden Gloves in Omaha, Nebraska, where he lost a split decision to Derek Isaman. Two weeks later, Morrison took part in the Western Olympic trials in Houston, Texas winning the Heavyweight Title and garnering the "Most Outstanding Fighter" of the tournament. Two weeks after that at the Olympic Trials in Concord, California, Morrison lost a split decision to Ray Mercer, who would go on to win the gold medal at the Seoul Olympics.[10] His combined professional and amateur record is 343–24–1, with 315 wins by knockout.

Professional career

Morrison started his professional boxing career on November 10, 1988,[10] with a first-round knockout of William Muhammad in New York City. Three weeks later, he scored another first-round knockout. In 1989, Morrison had 19 wins and no losses, 15 by knockout. In 1989, actor Sylvester Stallone observed one of Morrison's bouts. Stallone arranged a script reading and cast Morrison in the movie Rocky V as Tommy "The Machine" Gunn,[11] a young and talented protege of the retired Rocky Balboa. He took a six-month break from boxing to work on the movie in 1990.[10]

In 1991, Morrison won fights against opponents James Tillis and former world champion Pinklon Thomas. He was given an opportunity to face fellow undefeated fighter Ray Mercer, the WBO title holder in a Pay Per View card held on October 18, 1991. Morrison suffered the first loss of his career, losing by 5th round knockout.[10] He had six wins in 1992, including fights with Art Tucker and Joe Hipp, who later became the first Native American to challenge for the world heavyweight title. In the Hipp fight, held June 19, 1992, Morrison was suffering from what was later discovered to be a broken hand and broken jaw, but rallied to score a knockout in the ninth round. After two wins in 1993, including one over two-time world title challenger Carl "The Truth" Williams, Morrison found himself fighting for the WBO title again, against heavyweight boxing legend George Foreman, who was himself making a comeback. As both men were famed for their punching power, an exciting battle was expected, but Morrison chose to avoid brawling with Foreman and spent the fight boxing from long range. He was able to hit and move effectively in this manner, and after a closely contested bout he won a unanimous 12-round decision and the WBO title.[12]

Morrison's first title defense was scheduled against Mike Williams, but when Williams withdrew on the night of the fight, Tim Tomashek stood in as a replacement. Although Tomashek had been prepared to fight as a backup plan, some news reports created the impression that he had just been pulled out of the crowd.[13] The WBO later rescinded their sanctioning of this fight due to Tomashek's lack of experience. Almost immediately, talks of a fight with WBC champion Lennox Lewis began, but were halted when virtually unknown Michael Bentt upset Morrison in his next bout. Bentt knocked Morrison down three times, and the fight was stopped in the first round in front of a live HBO Boxing audience.[14] Morrison recovered by winning three bouts in a row in 1994, but his last fight of the year, against Ross Puritty, ended with a draw.[15]

Morrison won three fights in 1995 before meeting former #1 contender Razor Ruddock. Ruddock dropped Morrison to his knees in the first round, but Morrison recovered to force a standing count in round two and compete on even terms for five rounds. In the sixth round, Ruddock hurt Morrison with a quick combination, but just as it seemed Morrison was in trouble, he countered with a tremendous hook that put Ruddock on the canvas. Ruddock regained his feet, but Morrison drove him to the ropes and showered him with an extended flurry of blows. Just as the bell was about to sound, the referee stepped in and declared Morrison the winner by TKO.[16]

The much-anticipated fight with Lewis, who had also lost his world championship, finally took place following the Ruddock match. Morrison was knocked out in the sixth round.[17]

Personal life

At one point in 1996 Tommy was married to two women at the same time, Dawn Freeman and Dawn Gilbert. Tommy had two children by age 19.[18] Tommy and Trisha Morrison were married in 2011. They had no children.


In 1996, Morrison was scheduled to fight against Arthur Weathers. The Nevada Athletic Commission determined that Morrison had tested positive for HIV.[19] The Commission suspended Morrison from boxing in Nevada.[20] Several days later, Morrison's physician administered a test, which was also positive.[19] At a news conference on February 15, 1996, Morrison said he had contracted HIV because of a "permissive, fast and reckless lifestyle".[19] Morrison stated that he would "absolutely" never fight again.[20]

At another news conference on September 19, 1996, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Morrison announced he wished to fight "one last time" when he could find an opponent, the proceeds of which would benefit his KnockOut AIDS Foundation.[20] A spokesman for the Oklahoma Professional Boxing Advisory Board said Morrison would probably not be permitted to fight in Oklahoma because of his Nevada suspension.[21] To treat his infection, Morrison said he took antiretroviral medication, which reduced his viral load to almost undetectable levels.[22]

In 2006, Morrison said his HIV tests had been false positives.[23] The Nevada commission's medical advisory board reviewed Morrison's 1996 test results and concluded they were "ironclad and unequivocal."[24] Morrison said he tried to get a copy of the original test result but was unable to do so, adding: "I don't think it ever existed." The Commission said Morrison could "contact the laboratory, and they would immediately release the results to him."[24]

Morrison tested negative for HIV four times in January 2007.[25] That year, he began fighting again.[26][27][28] After passing medical tests in Texas, West Virginia licensed Morrison to fight in that state. In February 2007 he fought and beat John Castle.[26][27] In June, Morrison's former agent, Randy Lang, alleged that Morrison had tested positive in January and that the boxer had tampered with blood samples. Morrison responded that he had fired Lang when he discovered that Lang was not a lawyer.[29]

On July 22, 2007, the New York Times reported that Morrison took two HIV tests in 2007 and a third specifically for the Times.[30] HIV experts reviewed the three tests and concluded that the 1996 result had been a false positive. But ringside doctors, including Nevada's chief ringside physician, expressed doubt. They implied that the negative results were not in fact based on Morrison's blood. The experts agreed that no one is ever cured of HIV; if the negative tests from 2007 were performed on Morrison's blood, then he had never been infected with HIV.[30]

The Kansas City Star described his early 2009 fight in Wyoming as a "staged" event and a "fake fight."[31] In January 2011, the RACJ, the boxing commission for the province of Quebec, required that Morrison take a supervised HIV test in advance of a scheduled 2011 fight. Morrison declined to take the test because he said it would be the same kind of test administered by Nevada in 1996. Instead, Morrison invited the Quebec commission to attend a public test, but the commission did not come. Morrison stated that if Quebec refused to license him, he would "take the dog and pony show somewhere else."[32]

Legal issues

In December 1993, Morrison was charged with assault and public intoxication when he allegedly punched a University of Iowa student. Morrison said that the student had been staring at him.[33] Morrison pleaded guilty and paid a $310 fine, but said he was innocent.[34] In October 1996, Morrison pleaded guilty to transporting a loaded firearm in Jay, Oklahoma; he received a 6-month suspended sentence and a $100 fine.[35] In 1997, an Oklahoma jury convicted him of DUI in an accident that left three people injured; the court ordered Morrison to spend time in treatment.[36]

In September 1999, an Oklahoma court gave a two-year suspended sentence for a DUI elevated to felony level by his previous DUI conviction. On September 16, 1999, the police stopped Morrison for driving erratically and found drugs and weapons in his car, which resulted in various drugs and firearms charges. While awaiting trial on the September 16 charges, Morrison was again arrested on charges of intoxication and possessing a weapon while a felon in November 1999.[36] On January 14, 2000, Morrison was sentenced to two years in prison on the September 16 charges.[37] On April 3, 2002, he was sentenced to another year in prison after violating parole in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but was given credit for time previously served.[38]


In August 2013, Elizabeth Merrill of reported that Morrison's mother Diana disclosed that Tommy had "full-blown AIDS" and was "in his final days." She also stated that Morrison had been bedridden for over a year. The same article also stated that Morrison's wife, Trisha, did not believe Morrison had AIDS.[39][40]

On September 1, 2013, Morrison died at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska at the age of 44.[41] According to the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services, Morrison's cause of death was cardiac arrest, resulting from multiorgan failure due to septic shock caused by a Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection.[42]

Professional boxing record

48 Wins (42 knockouts), 3 Losses, 1 Draw [43]
Res. Record Opponent Type Round Date Location Notes
Win 48-3-1 United States Matt Weishaar TKO 3 (8) 09/02/2008 Mexico Domo de la Feria, Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico
Win 47-3-1 United States John Castle TKO 2 (6) 22/02/2007 United States Mountaineer Casino, Chester, West Virginia, United States
Win 46-3-1 United States Marcus Rhode TKO 1 (10) 03/11/1996 Japan Tokyo Bay NK Hall, Urayasu, Chiba, Japan
Loss 45-3-1 United Kingdom Lennox Lewis TKO 6 (12) 07/10/1995 United States Convention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States Lost IBC Heavyweight Title.
Win 45-2-1 Canada Donovan Ruddock TKO 6 (12) 10/06/1995 United States Municipal Auditorium, Kansas City, Missouri, United States Won vacant IBC Heavyweight Title.
Win 44-2-1 United States Terry Anderson KO 7 (10) 01/05/1995 United States Brady Theater, Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States
Win 43-2-1 United States Marcellus Brown KO 3 (10) 05/03/1995 United States Civic Assembly Center, Muskogee, Oklahoma, United States
Win 42-2-1 United States Ken Merritt TKO 1 (10) 07/02/1995 United States State Fair Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States
Draw 41-2-1 United States Ross Puritty SD 10 28/07/1994 United States Convention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States
Win 41–2 United States Sherman Griffin UD 10 24/05/1994 United States Brady Theater, Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States
Win 40–2 United States Brian Scott TKO 2 (10) 27/03/1994 United States Expo Square Pavilion, Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States
Win 39–2 Samoa Tui Toia KO 3 (10) 20/02/1994 United States Biloxi, Mississippi, United States
Loss 38–2 United States Michael Bentt TKO 1 (12) 29/10/1993 United States Civic Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States Lost WBO Heavyweight Title.
Win 38–1 United States Tim Tomashek TKO 4 (12) 30/08/1993 United States Kemper Arena, Kansas City, Missouri, United States Retained WBO Heavyweight Title.
Win 37–1 United States George Foreman UD 12 07/06/1993 United States Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States Won vacant WBO Heavyweight Title.
Win 36–1 United States Dan Murphy TKO 3 (10) 30/03/1993 United States Kemper Arena, Kansas City, Missouri, United States
Win 35–1 United States Carl Williams TKO 8 (10) 16/01/1993 United States Reno-Sparks Convention Center, Reno, Nevada, United States
Win 34–1 United States Marshall Tillman TKO 1 (10) 12/12/1992 United States America West Arena, Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Win 33–1 United States Joe Hipp TKO 9 (10) 27/06/1992 United States Bally's Hotel & Casino, Reno, Nevada, United States
Win 32–1 United States Art Tucker TKO 2 (10) 14/05/1992 United States Harrah's Marina Hotel Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States
Win 31–1 United States Kimmuel Odum TKO 3 (10) 23/04/1992 United States Foxwoods Resort, Mashantucket, Connecticut, United States
Win 30–1 United States Jerry Halstead TKO 5 (10) 20/03/1992 United States Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 29–1 United States Bobby Quarry TKO 2 (10) 16/02/1992 United States Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Loss 28–1 United States Ray Mercer TKO 5 (12) 18/10/1991 United States Convention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States For WBO Heavyweight Title.
Win 28–0 Mexico Ladislao Mijangos TKO 1 (10) 27/06/1991 United States Bally's Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 27–0 Latvia Yuri Vaulin TKO 5 (10) 19/04/1991 United States Convention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States
Win 26–0 United States Pinklon Thomas RTD 1 (10) 19/02/1991 United States Kemper Arena, Kansas City, Missouri, United States
Win 25–0 United States James Tillis TKO 1 (8) 11/01/1991 United States Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States
Win 24–0 United States Mike Acey TKO 1 (6) 08/11/1990 United States Bally's Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 23–0 United States John Morton TKO 5 (6) 04/10/1990 United States Mark Etess Arena, Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States
Win 22–0 United States Charles Woolard KO 2 (?) 09/06/1990 United States Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Kansas, United States
Win 21–0 Canada Ken Lakusta UD 6 07/12/1989 United States Mirage Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 20–0 United States Michael Dokes KO 2 (2) 03/11/1989 United States South Mountain Arena, West Orange, New Jersey, United States
Win 19–0 United States Charles Hostetter KO 1 (?) 26/10/1989 United States Kemper Arena, Kansas City, Missouri, United States
Win 18–0 United States Harry Terrell KO 1 (10) 17/10/1989 United States State Fair, Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Win 17–0 United States David Jaco KO 1 (6) 19/09/1989 United States Veteran's Coliseum, Jacksonville, Florida, United States
Win 16–0 United States Rick Enis TKO 1 (6) 05/09/1989 United States Harrah's Hotel & Casino, Stateline, Nevada, United States
Win 15–0 United States Jesse Shelby TKO 2 (6) 22/08/1989 United States Showboat Hotel & Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States
Win 14–0 United States Mike Robinson TKO 2 (6) 08/08/1989 United States Bally's Park Place Hotel Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States
Win 13–0 United States Aaron Brown UD 10 03/07/1989 United States Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States
Win 12–0 United States Steve Zouski UD 4 25/06/1989 United States Convention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States
Win 11–0 United States Ricky Nelson TKO 2 (6) 11/06/1989 United States Trump Plaza Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States
Win 10–0 United States Mike McGrady TKO 1 (?) 14/05/1989 United States Trump Plaza Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States
Win 9–0 United States Lorenzo Boyd TKO 2 (?) 22/04/1989 United States Kansas City, Kansas, United States
Win 8–0 United States Alan Jamison KO 1 (?) 29/03/1989 United States Wichita, Kansas, United States
Win 7–0 United States Lee Moore KO 2 (?) 24/02/1989 United States Convention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States
Win 6–0 United States Traore Ali TKO 4 (6) 09/02/1989 United States Felt Forum, New York, New York, United States
Win 5–0 United States Mike Foley KO 1 (?) 24/01/1989 United States Great Falls, Montana, United States
Win 4–0 United States Elvin Evans KO 1 (?) 17/01/1989 United States Premier Center, Sterling Heights, Michigan, United States
Win 3–0 United States Joe Adams KO 1 (?) 12/01/1989 United States Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States
Win 2–0 United States Tony Dewar KO 1 (?) 30/11/1988 United States Cobo Hall, Detroit, Michigan, United States
Win 1–0 United States William Muhammad TKO 1 (4) 10/11/1988 United States Felt Forum, New York, New York, United States


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External links

Preceded by
Michael Moorer
WBO World Heavyweight Championship
June 7 – October 29, 1993
Succeeded by
Michael Bentt
Titles in pretence
Title last held by
Tim Puller
World Heavyweight Champion
IBC recognition

June 10 – October 10, 1995
Succeeded by
Lennox Lewis