21
Sep
2020

EXCLUSIVE: Tommy Morrison biography and interview

Phil Jay 06/11/2011
Tommy Morrison

HBO

Tommy Morrison (middle name David) was born on January 2nd, 1969 in Gravette, Arkansas, USA. An impressionable boy fell in love with boxing at the tender age of seven.

During his amateur career, Tommy fought over 200 times and only lost 20 on his way to winning the Kansas Golden Gloves Heavyweight Title in 1988.

He eventually lost in the national final on a split decision.

Tommy took part in the Olympic trials in the same year, just losing out to Ray Mercer who eventually went on to win the gold medal.

Due to his Seoul ’88 disappointment, Tommy turned over and labeled himself ‘The Duke’ in homage to John Wayne. The famous actor is actually a relation of Tommy’s.

Making his debut in November 1988, Tommy knocked out Will Muhammad in the very first round.

His next ten opponents would all get knocked out – nine of them in the first two rounds, as Tommy tore threw the early part of his career with ease. He was averaging a fight every three weeks.

Tommy had two decision victories in the mid part of 1989 before getting back to two round demolitions in his next six fights. This improved his record to 19-0 with seventeen knockouts and all happened within a year of turning professional.

In one of those knockout performances, Tommy caught the eye of acting legend Sylvester Stallone, who was casting for his latest installment of the Rocky franchise.

Tommy was eventually offered a part in ‘Rocky V’ and took six months off for filming after two points victories in the latter part of 1989. Portraying Tommy Gunn with no acting experience whatsoever, Morrison earned widespread recognition for the role and was an instant celebrity.

Despite the film not hitting the heights of previous Rocky movies, it still made him one of the most famous boxers on the planet.

Resuming his boxing career in June 1990, Charles Woolard was halted in two rounds. Tommy followed that up with three more knockout victories.

This led to a match up with former World Champion Pinklon Thomas, which took place in February 1991.

Tommy was 25-0 at this point and a devastating knockout record was catching everyone’s attention.

Pinklon Thomas was on the back of going eight rounds with Riddick Bowe, and at 33, wasn’t yet over the hill. But Morrison had way too much for the aging Thomas and battered him for the first three minutes. Eventually, the onslaught led to Thomas’ corner pulling him out after just one round.

Tommy was moving into world title contention, and after two more knockout wins, the WBO title was within sight. Champion and former amateur opponent Ray Mercer was in the opposite corner as the pair traded blows in Atlantic City back in late 1991.

Mercer was also unbeaten at the time and scored a brutal fifth-round stoppage. Morrison was beaten for the first time in his career.

After four months out of the ring, Tommy came back to blitz his next four opponents before taking on southpaw Joe Hipp at Bally’s Casino in Reno, Nevada in June 1992.

Morrison had the elder Hipp down in the fifth and again later on the way to a ninth-round TKO. On the downside, Tommy broke his jaw and hand in the fight whilst Hipp suffered a fractured cheekbone.

Tommy then powered through his next three opponents to earn himself another crack at the WBO title. This time his opponent would be former undisputed world champ ‘Big’ George Foreman.

In one of his best performances, Tommy dominated the 44-year-old Foreman to claim a unanimous points win and his first World title at the age of 24.

He defended successfully against Tim Tomashek in Kansas City before taking on little known Michael Bentt in Oklahoma, who was fighting in only his eleventh fight.

After a superb start to the first round, it looked like Morrison would take Bentt out early. But whilst attempting to finish off the London-born New Yorker, Tommy walked onto a shot and never fully recovered. He was subsequently knocked down three times in the round and lost his crown in a shock result.

Tommy took another four months out before returning with three wins in three months. In July 1994, he took on Ross Puritty.

Morrison was knocked down another two times on his way to drawing with Puritty, a man who had lost eight times before.

He got back to winning ways with three knockouts before another eye-catching win, this time versus Donovan ‘Razor’ Ruddock. It earned him a WBC title eliminator against the formidable Lennox Lewis.

Lewis kept Morrison at bay throughout the fight with his pawing jab and Tommy couldn’t really get close enough to throw his big shots. After a bad fifth round, Tommy was knocked down twice in the sixth, leading to referee Mills Lane calling the fight off.

In 1996, Morrison was then scheduled to box Arthur Weathers but a few days before the fight Tommy reportedly tested positive for HIV on a mandatory test. The bout was called off and an announcement was made that Morrison had failed the physical.

A second test also came back positive, according to the Nevada Commission leading to the boxing commission suspending Tommy indefinitely.

READ: EXCLUSIVE: Tommy Morrison granted hearing over ‘false HIV diagnosis’

Tommy announced he would like one more fight with the proceeds going to an aids-related charity. He won the non-sanctioned fight against Marcus Rhode by first-round knockout in Tokyo, Japan.

After ten years away from the ring and some personal problems, Tommy announced in 2006 that he had taken several HIV tests since he was diagnosed in 1996 and they had all come back negative.

In early 2007 an Arizona State Boxing Commissioner watched on as Tommy took a blood test and received the results personally – which also came back negative.

Tommy was convinced that something was amiss with the first tests in 1996 and that he may never have been HIV positive in the first place.

In February 2007, Tommy scheduled his first fight in 11 years. even though he had not been cleared by a doctor to fight. A license was granted by the West Virginia Athletic Commission on the grounds that they don’t require blood testing to clear a boxer.

After much deliberation, the WVAC asked for a test to take place and were happy with the results. Tommy duly knocked out John Castle in the second round at the Mountaineer Casino Race Track to restart his career with a bang.

In February 2008, Tommy beat Matt Weishaar via a third-round TKO in Guanajuato, Mexico in what has since proved to be his last fight to date.

Tommy has re-applied for his license several times. In August 2010, he was granted a license by the Washington State Boxing Commission but would never return to the ring.

Morrison wrote a book on his experiences, called, Tommy: My Boxing Career which makes for a very interesting read indeed.


WBN Q & A with Tommy from 2011

(ROUND 1) How did you first get into boxing Tommy?

“I went to watch my uncle Freddie racing stock cars but It rained so they canceled the races, so we decided to go watch some boxing matches instead and a week later I started boxing myself, I was seven-years-old.”

(ROUND 2) What was your Amateur record?

“222 wins and 20 losses.”

(ROUND 3) Who influenced you as a young boxer?

“There were a few, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Leonard, Floyd Patterson, and Ali, of course.”

(ROUND 4) Toughest opponent you have faced?

“The Devil.”

(ROUND 5) Who would you want to fight in the future?

“Wladimir Klitschko and Mike Tyson’

(ROUND 6) Which fight do people ask you about most?

“Foreman, Hipp and Mercer, of course.”

(ROUND 7) Best fight you have seen?

“Action packed Ray Mancini and Duk-Koo Kim.”

(ROUND 8) Do you think starring in “Rocky V” helped or hindered your career?

“Easy one, marketability standard it was a huge advantage. Had I not been a 19-year-old, I would not have been able to take six months off.”

(ROUND 9) What’s your motivation?

“For fighting? I would like to see my sport cleaned up and set up a pension plan for my idols.”

(ROUND 10) What would you change in Boxing?

“The governing rules are set in place…boxing needs a new face! And his name is Tommy Morrison.”

(ROUND 11) Do you have a message to all your loyal fans?

“Thanks for your support, thanks for not giving up on me…and I am thankful to myself that I have not given up on me.”

“If I wasn’t called by God to do it I wouldn’t be doing it.”

(ROUND 12) Tell us something we don’t know about Tommy Morrison.

“Here’s a few…

“I have a great sense of humor. I’m a very devout Christian. I pray every day and I am very in tune with worldly issues and the signs of the times.

“Also, I can chew bubble gum and walk at the same time!

“I know how to use a Blackberry! And this time around I’m more personally involved in my career. I’ll keep just a small circle of friends.

“I love when my fans keep in contact with me, it inspires me to know that they are following my story.

“I’m in love with an ‘English cupcake’ (Trish). We have an awesome friendship and she is my soulmate for LIFE! – Aka The Duchess.”

“I feel like I have some of the most loyal fans in the sport.”

Tommy: My Boxing Career. You can order it from my website tommythedukemorrison.com

Phil Jay is Editor of World Boxing News. An Auxiliary member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow on Twitter @PhilDJay