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Home » Tommy Morrison disliked ‘White Hope’ tag, had African-American ancestry

Tommy Morrison disliked ‘White Hope’ tag, had African-American ancestry

Tommy Morrison was known as ‘The Great White Hope’ by many during his rise to the top, although the fighter himself disliked being named as such.

The hard-punching Arkansas native, who passed away in 2013 due to cardiac arrest and organ failure, aimed to give America their first caucasian top division ruler since Rocky Marciano in 1956.

What people did not know, is that Tommy Morrison had an African-American grandfather three times removed biologically on his mother’s side.

Despite this, boxing fans and media alike attempted to make the name stick. After he eventually won the world title against George Foreman, Morrison revealed his feelings.

Speaking to Jay Leno back in the 1990s, the subject came up in conversation. Morrison didn’t hesitate to air his views.

“It’s something I’ve always tried to avoid and there are two reasons,” Morrison told Leno. “One, it’s a racial statement and there are enough problems in the world today.

“Number two, when you start naming ‘Great White Hopes’, the come up with Gerry Cooney and (inaudible). People who didn’t really reach their potential in becoming world heavyweight champion.

“I consider myself a more complete fighter than that.

“I just look forward to the day when fighters are recognized by their ability and not the color of their skin,” he added.

Fondly remembered and to this day still the last recognizable white heavyweight champion, Tommy’s words will echo through today’s protests.

‘The Duke’ didn’t want to be known as the ‘last white champion’ or any kind of color champion. It was only his skills he wanted to be acknowledged.


Forever fighting against stereotyping, the battle to clear his name from being linked with the AIDS virus still lies with his widow Trish.

Battling tooth and nail to have those who put out false information held accountable, Trish was on the verge of a hearing until the coronavirus crisis and subsequent Las Vegas protests hit her bid to be heard.

Trish, who informed WBN of Tommy’s links to African-American culture, hopes to get the fighting back inside the courtroom.

“I’d really like to add that justice should prevail in COURT like Tommy’s story and not on the streets. But maybe that’s too much to the point,” Morrison told World Boxing News.

“The only street fight that people should be watching is on ROCKY V,” she added.

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