Heavyweight Tommy Morrison had minority blood running through his veins – a little-known fact around the boxing world.
During his rise to the top, Morrison was known as ‘The Great White Hope’ by many, although the fighter 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.
People did not know 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 winning 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. There are two reasons,” Morrison told Leno. “One, it’s a racial statement. There are enough problems in the world today.
“Number two, when you start naming ‘Great White Hopes,’ they come up with Gerry Cooney and [inaudible]. People who didn’t really reach their potential in becoming world heavyweight champions.
“I consider myself a more complete fighter than that. I 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 echo through the tensions today.
Great White Hope
‘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 continues to push for authorities to acknowledge Tommy as HIV-free.
Trish, who informed WBN of Tommy’s links to African-American culture, keeps hoping for more luck in 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 people should watch is on ROCKY V,” she added.