Former WBO heavyweight champion and star of Hollywood blockbuster ‘Rocky V’ Tommy Morrison has tragically passed away at the tender age of 44 after a battle with illness.
Morrison, who claims to have been falsely diagnosed with HIV in the 1990’s, is believed to have died last night whilst in the care of his wife Trisha, ex-promoter Tony Holden stated to various news outlets.
‘The Duke’ rose to prominence as the ‘Great White Hope’ of the top division in the late 80’s scoring early knockout after early knockout as the dominance of black athletes amongst the elite of the sport was at it’s height.
The young pretender would eventually put together a standout 28-0 record on his way to challenging Ray Mercer for the WBO title in 1991 where he lost out via a fifth round stoppage in Atlantic City.
The Arkansas puncher would regroup to win eight straight by KO on his way to facing the then oldest world champion of all time in ‘Big’ George Foreman at the Thomas and Mack Center in 1993.
Using his movement to outscore the much bigger and less mobile Foreman, Morrison eventually saw out a unanimous points win to realise his dream of finally landing the world championship as he famously lifted the WBO belt aloft.
Darker times would soon follow for Morrison, who was knocked out in just one round in his second defence of the title by eleven-fight Michael Bentt, before being held to a draw by eight-loss Ross Purrity as he stood on the verge of another title shot.
Building himself back into contention with trademark early finishes, Morrison would take on the new emerging star of the sport Lennox Lewis in 1995, with the winner certain to be given a chance to challenge Oliver McCall for the strap he took away from the Londoner previously.
Unfortunately for him, Morrison just didn’t have enough to topple the stronger Briton and was once again stopped as news that would shock the sport was about to be sprung upon the unwitting boxing fraternity.
In 1996, the Nevada State Athletic Commission confirmed that Morrison had tested positive for the dreaded HIV virus, which after being rubberstamped with a second test, led to the fighter calling a press conference.
At that gathering, Morrison announced that he would retire from the sport following the NSAC’s decision to order all fighters to have shared the ring with Morrison recently to undergo tests – including Lewis and Foreman.
After fighting one last time for an AIDS charity in Japan in November 1996, Morrison would step away from the ring to fight his illness before emerging in 2006 claiming that his tests had been ‘false positives’ from the beginning.
Tommy then launched a new bid to fight again, making two low-key appearances scoring stoppages in 2007 and 2008, but ultimately failed to make an impact in his forties as confusion continued to reign on his real condition.
More recently, Morrison had reportedly been diagnosed with Miller Fisher Syndrome which was said to be the major contributing factor to his health decline, although his mother told ESPN last week that her son was now succumbing to full blown AIDS.
Morrison, who was pictured several times towards the end looking frail and guant, is believed to have passed away on Sunday night , but let’s hope that his illness and final battle with fatal disease are not all that is remembered about former world title holder in the future.
A charismatic personally big enough to grace the big screen and a talented big-punching showman were the qualities that should define Morrison’s legacy, with the champ finally allowed to rest after years of fighting outside the ring, just like his character in the movie.