Tommy David Morrison (January 2, 1969 – September 1, 2013) was an American professional boxer who competed from 1988 to 1996, and held the WBO heavyweight title in 1993. He retired from boxing in 1996 when he tested positive for HIV, but returned for two more fights in 2007 and 2008. Morrison is also known for starring alongside Sylvester Stallone in the 1990 film Rocky V.
Morrison had previously attempted a comeback to boxing in 2006, claiming he had tested negative for HIV. In August 2013, Morrison's mother announced that her son was in the final stages of AIDS, and he died on September 1, 2013.
Morrison was born in Gravette, Arkansas. His mother, Diana, was of Native American descent, while his father's side was of majority Scottish descent. Morrison was raised in Delaware County, Oklahoma, spending most of his teenage years in Jay. Morrison's nickname, "The Duke", is based on the claim that he was related to Hollywood star John Wayne (né Marion Morrison). 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 matches.
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 later won the gold medal at the Seoul Olympics. His combined professional and amateur record is 343–24–1, with 315 wins by knockout.
Morrison started his professional boxing career on November 10, 1988, 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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
At one point in 1996 Morrison was married to two women at the same time, Dawn Freeman and Dawn Gilbert. Morrison had two children by age 19. Tommy and Trisha Morrison were married in 2011. They had no children. He has two sons who are also professional boxers, Trey Lippe Morrison and James McKenzie Morrison.
In 1996, Morrison was scheduled to fight against Arthur Weathers. The Nevada Athletic Commission determined that Morrison had tested positive for HIV. The Commission suspended Morrison from boxing in Nevada. Several days later, Morrison's physician administered a test, which was also positive. At a news conference on February 15, 1996, Morrison said he had contracted HIV because of a "permissive, fast and reckless lifestyle". Morrison stated that he would "absolutely" never fight again.
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. 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. To treat his infection, Morrison said he took antiretroviral medication, which reduced his viral load to almost undetectable levels.
In 2006, Morrison said his HIV tests had been false positives. The Nevada commission's medical advisory board reviewed Morrison's 1996 test results and concluded they were "ironclad and unequivocal." 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."
Morrison tested negative for HIV four times in January 2007. That year, he began fighting again. After passing medical tests in Texas, West Virginia licensed Morrison to fight in that state. In February 2007 he fought and beat John Castle. 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.
On July 22, 2007, the New York Times reported that Morrison took two HIV tests in 2007 and a third specifically for the Times. 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.
The Kansas City Star described his early 2009 fight in Wyoming as a "staged" event and a "fake fight." 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."
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. Morrison pleaded guilty and paid a $310 fine, but said he was innocent. 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. 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.
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. On January 14, 2000, Morrison was sentenced to two years in prison on the September 16 charges. 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.
In August 2013, Elizabeth Merrill of ESPN.com 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.
On September 1, 2013, Morrison died at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska at the age of 44. 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.
|Professional record summary|
|52 fights||48 wins||3 losses|
|52||Win||48–3–1||Matt Weishaar||TKO||3 (6), 1:40||Feb 9, 2008||Domo de la Feria, León, Mexico|
|51||Win||47–3–1||John Castle||TKO||2 (6), 1:49||Feb 22, 2007||Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, Chester, West Virginia, U.S.|
|50||Win||46–3–1||Marcus Rhode||TKO||1 (10), 1:38||Nov 3, 1996||Tokyo Bay NK Hall, Urayasu, Japan|
|49||Loss||45–3–1||Lennox Lewis||TKO||6 (12), 1:22||Oct 7, 1995||Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.||Lost IBC heavyweight title|
|48||Win||45–2–1||Donovan Ruddock||TKO||6 (12), 2:55||Jun 10, 1995||Municipal Auditorium, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.||Won vacant IBC heavyweight title|
|47||Win||44–2–1||Terry Anderson||KO||7 (10), 1:34||May 1, 1995||Brady Theater, Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.|
|46||Win||43–2–1||Marselles Brown||KO||3 (10), 2:18||Mar 5, 1995||Civic Assembly Center, Muskogee, Oklahoma, U.S.|
|45||Win||42–2–1||Ken Merritt||TKO||1 (10), 2:41||Feb 7, 1995||State Fair Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S.|
|44||Draw||41–2–1||Ross Puritty||SD||10||Jul 28, 1994||Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|43||Win||41–2||Sherman Griffin||UD||10||May 24, 1994||Brady Theater, Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.|
|42||Win||40–2||Brian Scott||TKO||2 (10), 1:37||Mar 27, 1994||Expo Square Pavilion, Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.|
|41||Win||39–2||Tui Toia||KO||3 (10), 2:13||Feb 20, 1994||Belle Casino, Biloxi, Mississippi, U.S.|
|40||Loss||38–2||Michael Bentt||TKO||1 (12), 1:33||Oct 29, 1993||Convention Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.||Lost WBO heavyweight title|
|39||Win||38–1||Tim Tomashek||RTD||4 (12), 3:00||Aug 30, 1993||Kemper Arena, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.||Retained WBO heavyweight title|
|38||Win||37–1||George Foreman||UD||12||Jun 7, 1993||Thomas & Mack Center, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.||Won vacant WBO heavyweight title|
|37||Win||36–1||Dan Murphy||TKO||3 (10), 1:10||Mar 30, 1993||Kemper Arena, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.|
|36||Win||35–1||Carl Williams||TKO||8 (10), 2:10||Jan 16, 1993||Convention Center, Reno, Nevada, U.S.|
|35||Win||34–1||Marshall Tillman||TKO||1 (10), 2:23||Dec 12, 1992||America West Arena, Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.|
|34||Win||33–1||Joe Hipp||TKO||9 (10), 2:47||Jun 27, 1992||Bally's, Reno, Nevada, U.S.|
|33||Win||32–1||Art Tucker||TKO||2 (10), 1:12||May 14, 1992||Broadway by the Bay Theater, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|32||Win||31–1||Kimmuel Odum||TKO||3 (10), 1:50||Apr 23, 1992||Foxwoods Resort Casino, Ledyard, Connecticut, U.S.|
|31||Win||30–1||Jerry Halstead||TKO||5 (10), 0:30||Mar 20, 1992||Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.|
|30||Win||29–1||Bobby Quarry||TKO||2 (10), 1:29||Feb 16, 1992||Las Vegas Hilton, Winchester, Nevada, U.S.|
|29||Loss||28–1||Ray Mercer||TKO||5 (12), 0:28||Oct 18, 1991||Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.||For WBO heavyweight title|
|28||Win||28–0||Ladislao Mijangos||TKO||1 (10), 1:40||Jun 27, 1991||Bally's Las Vegas, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.|
|27||Win||27–0||Yuri Vaulin||TKO||5 (10), 2:06||Apr 19, 1991||Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|26||Win||26–0||Pinklon Thomas||RTD||1 (10), 3:00||Feb 19, 1991||Kemper Arena, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.|
|25||Win||25–0||James Tillis||TKO||1 (8), 1:51||Jan 11, 1991||Etess Arena, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|24||Win||24–0||Mike Acey||TKO||1 (6), 1:35||Nov 8, 1990||Bally's Las Vegas, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.|
|23||Win||23–0||John Morton||TKO||5 (6), 1:49||Oct 4, 1990||Etess Arena, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|22||Win||22–0||Charles Woolard||KO||2||Jun 9, 1990||Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Kansas, U.S.|
|21||Win||21–0||Ken Lakusta||UD||6||Dec 7, 1989||The Mirage, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.|
|20||Win||20–0||Lorenzo Canady||UD||6||Nov 3, 1989||South Mountain Arena, West Orange, New Jersey, U.S.|
|19||Win||19–0||Charles Hostetter||KO||1||Oct 26, 1989||Kemper Arena, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.|
|18||Win||18–0||Harry Terrell||KO||1 (6), 2:59||Oct 17, 1989||State Fair, Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.|
|17||Win||17–0||David Jaco||KO||1 (6), 0:37||Sep 19, 1989||Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.|
|16||Win||16–0||Rick Enis||TKO||1 (6), 2:45||Sep 5, 1989||Harrah's Lake Tahoe, Stateline, Nevada, U.S.|
|15||Win||15–0||Jesse Shelby||TKO||2 (6), 1:55||Aug 22, 1989||Showboat, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|14||Win||14–0||Mike Robinson||TKO||2 (6)||Aug 8, 1989||Bally's Park Place, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|13||Win||13–0||Aaron Brown||UD||6||Jul 3, 1989||Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|12||Win||12–0||Steve Zouski||UD||4||Jun 25, 1989||Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|11||Win||11–0||Ricky Nelson||TKO||2 (6)||Jun 11, 1989||Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|10||Win||10–0||Mike McGrady||TKO||1, 1:19||May 14, 1989||Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|9||Win||9–0||Lorenzo Boyd||TKO||2||Apr 22, 1989||Kansas City, Kansas, U.S.|
|8||Win||8–0||Alan Jamison||KO||1||Mar 29, 1989||Wichita, Kansas, U.S.|
|7||Win||7–0||Lee Moore||KO||2||Feb 24, 1989||Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|6||Win||6–0||Traore Ali||TKO||4 (6), 0:53||Feb 9, 1989||Felt Forum, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|5||Win||5–0||Mike Foley||KO||1||Jan 24, 1989||Four Seasons Arena, Great Falls, Montana, U.S.|
|4||Win||4–0||Elvin Evans||KO||1||Jan 17, 1989||Premier Center, Sterling Heights, Michigan, U.S.|
|3||Win||3–0||Joe Adams||KO||1||Jan 12, 1989||Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S.|
|2||Win||2–0||Tony Dewar||KO||1, 0:41||Nov 30, 1988||Cobo Hall, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.|
|1||Win||1–0||William Muhammad||TKO||1 (4)||Nov 10, 1988||Felt Forum, New York City, New York, U.S.||Professional debut|
|Minor world boxing titles|
Title last held byTim Puller
|IBC heavyweight champion
June 10, 1995 – October 7, 1995
|Major world boxing titles|
Title last held byMichael Moorer
|WBO heavyweight champion
June 7, 1993 – October 29, 1993
|Latest born world champion to die
September 1, 2013 – present