Tommy Morrison could act and was not to blame for the failure of Rocky V. It was only surprising that he didn’t work more before his career was taken away.
The former world heavyweight champion remains sorely missed nine years and more after his tragic passing at the age of 44.
Morrison was a much-admired part of the boxing community until he was controversially pushed out of the sport following a misdiagnosis of HIV in the mid-1990s.
Before winning his only world title, Morrison shot to fame as art imitated life. Sylvester Stallone was impressed by the young contender’s attitude and willingness to learn the acting business.
Tommy Morrison as Tommy Gunn
Stallone subsequently cast Morrison as ‘Tommy Gunn’ in Rocky V.
Although it wasn’t as big a success as the first four films, Morrison was happy to be part of the franchise.
On claiming the role, Morrison said in 1990: “I understand I’m being presented with an opportunity that comes along once in a lifetime.
“There are a million fighters out there who would kill to be in my position. But, at the same time, I don’t think I have or will be given anything I’m not capable of earning.
“It all comes down to this: Can I fight? Yes, I can. I know I can. Can I act? Well, I guess people will see for themselves when ‘Rocky V’ comes out.
“But I feel pretty good about it. I think I’ll do all right.”
And he did. ‘The Duke’ was utterly believable as big-punching ‘white hope’ who conquered the boxing world and called out his ex-trainer in Stallone.
It was far removed from Rocky I, II, III, and IV, where Stallone played the hero and won battles inside the ropes. This wasn’t the case in five.
Rocky street fight
It was Rocky, and Gunn trading blows in a punch-up without gloves. Stallone believes this pushed the movie out of sync with the others.
“It was too dark,” the Hollywood superstar told Variety Magazine in 2019. “I said Rocky can’t fight in the ring anymore but in the street.
“So when he fights Tommy Morrison in the movie, Rocky says, ‘I can’t beat you in the ring, but I’ll beat you in the street.’
“Well, it didn’t work, and it devastated me.
“Every “Rocky” had been more successful than the last, and then it just plummeted. That was 1990, so for almost 15 years, I was pretty well cooked.”
With only one previous acting credit two years before in ‘They Live’ as an extra, Morrison would only grace screens once more.
A 1996 TV appearance in Cybill was the last time Morrison would be seen in a thespian capacity. He would then be fighting for his reputation until his untimely death.