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Tommy David Morrison (born January 2, 1969) is an American heavyweight boxer, and the former World Boxing Organization champion. Dubbed "The Duke," he is a grandnephew of Hollywood star John Wayne, and in 1990 was co-star of the boxing movie Rocky V.
Morrison was born in Gravette, Arkansas. From the ages of 13 to 19, Morrison entered every "toughman" contest he could, winning 49 fights out of 50 (all by knockouts). Beginning in December 1976, he fought as an amateur boxer, winning the Junior Olympics title in 1980. By 1988 his amateur fights totalled 242; he won 222 by knockout and lost only 20 times.
In 1988 Morrison took part in the Olympic trials, losing a split decision to Ray Mercer, who would go on to win the gold medal at the Seoul Olympics. The record for Morrison's fights of all kinds is 343-24-1, with 315 wins by knockout.
Morrison started his professional boxing career on November 10, 1988, with a first-round knockout of William Muhammad in New York City. Three weeks later, he scored another first-round knockout of a fellow journeyman.
Morrison's biggest breakthrough, however, came in 1989, when Sylvester Stallone was a spectator at one of his bouts and realized Morrison would be ideal for Rocky V. Stallone arranged for Morrison to have a script reading, and cast Morrison as Tommy Gunn in the movie. While Morrison did win two fights in 1990, it was when Rocky V was released in November of that year that he gained mainstream popularity.
In 1991, Morrison, already the recipient of much television exposure, won four fights against opponents James Quick Tillis and former world champion Pinklon Thomas. He was given an opportunity to face fellow undefeated fighter Ray Mercer, the WBO title holder in a Pay Per View card held on October 18 1991. For four rounds, Morrison fought impressively, dominating Mercer with hard, sharply-thrown combinations. Unfortunately for Morrison, Mercer possessed one of the sturdiest chins of that era of the heavyweight division, and Morrison's best punches had little effect. By the end of round four, Morrison, whose previous fights had primarily ended in early-round knockouts, began to visibly tire. In round five, Mercer sensed Morrison's fatigue and opened up with some offensive punches of his own. He trapped Morrison on the ropes and landed a series of damaging unanswered blows. Morrison slowly slid down the ropes to the canvas, already unconscious as Mercer continued to punch him. The knockout is considered one of the most brutal of that era.Template:Fact
Now on the comeback trail, Morrison had six wins in 1992, including one over Art Tucker, and one over future world title challenger Joe Hipp, who would later become the first Native American to challenge for the world heavyweight title. The Hipp fight, held June 27 1992, was one of the most exciting of Morrison's career. Suffering from what was later discovered to be a broken hand and broken jaw, Morrison had to rally late in the fight to score a knockout in the ninth round. After two wins in 1993, including one over two-time former world title challenger Carl "The Truth" Williams, Morrison found himself fighting for the WBO title again, this time, on June 7, against heavyweight boxing legend George Foreman, who was himself making a comeback. As both men were famed for their punching power, an exciting battle was expected, but Morrison chose to avoid brawling with Foreman and spent the fight boxing from long range. Foreman marched forward relentlessly, but Morrison was so determined to avoid Foreman's power that he actually turned his back to retreat on several occasions. The crowd understandably had little patience with this tactic, and began to boo Morrison as the fight progressed. However, Morrison was able to hit and move effectively in this manner, and after a closely contested bout he won a unanimous 12-round decision and the WBO title.
His first defense was intended to be against Mike Williams, but when Williams withdrew on the night of the fight, Tim Tomashek stood in as a replacement. Although Tomashek had been prepared to fight as a backup plan, some news reports created the impression that he had just been pulled out of the crowd. The WBO later rescinded their sanctioning of this fight due to Tomashek's lack of experience.
Almost immediately, talks of a fight with WBC world champion Lennox Lewis began. Talk of a Morrison-Lewis fight, however, was dramatically brought to a halt when Morrison was upset in his next defense by the virtually unknown Michael Bentt. In a shocking turn of events, Morrison was knocked down three times and stopped in the first round in front of a live HBO Boxing audience.
Morrison recovered by winning three bouts in a row in 1994 but then subsequently drew in his last fight of the year, against the deceptively tough trialhorse Ross Puritty (years later, Puritty would score a shocking upset victory over hot prospect Wladimir Klitschko).
He won three fights in 1995 before meeting former contender Razor Ruddock for the IBC Heavyweight Championship. In a thrilling encounter, Morrison was dropped to his knees in the first round, but recovered to compete on even terms for five rounds. In the sixth round, Ruddock hurt Morrison with a quick combination, but just as it seemed Morrison was in trouble, he countered with a tremendous hook that put Ruddock on the canvas. Remarkably, Ruddock regained his feet, but Morrison then drove him to the ropes and showered him with an extended flurry of blows. Just as the bell was about to sound, the referee stepped in and declared Morrison the winner by TKO.
The much-anticipated fight with Lewis, who had also lost his world championship, finally took place following the Ruddock match. However, Morrison fought conservatively and was never in the fight as Lewis picked him off relentlessly from long range. Morrison was knocked down and stopped in six rounds.
Testing positive for HIVEdit
A few days before his next fight, to be shown on Showtime, Morrison had a mandatory HIV test performed by the Nevada Athletic Commission. It was revealed during Showtime's telecast of the boxing undercard that Morrison's HIV test proved positive, automatically retiring him from boxing as a competitor. He was scheduled to fight Louisville Kentucky's Arthur "Stormy" Weathers in the 1st of 3 fights for a bid to the heavyweight title.
Later in 1996, Morrison announced that he wished to make a comeback with one more bout, the proceeds of which would benefit his newly created KnockOut Aids Foundation. Morrison won the non-sanctioned fight in a first-round knockout of Marcus Rhode in Tokyo. Morrison finished his boxing career with a record of 46 wins, 3 losses, and 1 draw, with 40 of his wins by knockout.
After his retirement, Morrison spent 14 months in prison on drug and weapons charges, and he would later also plead guilty to drunk driving.
His return to prizefighting came after several years of his belief that he was given a false-positive HIV exam in Las Vegas. Since December 2006, Morrison claimed that he had tested negative for HIV on four occasions. The head of the Arizona State Boxing Commission personally watched Morrison take a blood test at a lab in Phoenix, and received the official results demonstrating that Morrison was HIV negative.
As a result of his negative test in Phoenix, Morrison was licensed Tuesday February 20 2007 by the West Virginia Athletic Commission and faced John Castle of Indianapolis in a four-round bout Thursday night February 22 2007 at Mountaineer Race Track in Chester. Castle (4-2, 2 KOs) had been knocked out in his last two fights. After landing few punches, and being scored behind at the end of the first round, Morrison swooped in with his trademark left hook to knock out Castle in the middle of Round 2. The Morrison-Castle bout was not aired on television, but a post-fight interview with Morrison showed redness under his eyes that possibly could have been blood.
It was reported on June 8 2007 by the Arizona Republic that Morrison recently tested positive for HIV, which would disprove Morrison's claims that he either never had the virus in the first place or that it had disappeared. The report was based on statements from Randy Lang, a former agent for Morrison, who says the boxer has Hepatitis C as well as being HIV positive. According to Morrison's former agent, Morrison and Arizona promoter Peter McKinn were responsible for the fraudulent test results that somehow passed approval in West Virginia. After that, Morrison was refused a license in Texas and the public was told that a doctor was late filing the paperwork. In the Arizona Republic story, Morrison's fiance disparaged Lang but didn't directly deny the claim. In 2008, Morrison was tested again and the test came out negative for HIV.
Morrison was set to make his mixed martial arts debut against 340-pound John Stover on June 9 2007. Due to the fight taking place outside of the jurisdiction of the Arizona State Athletic Commission, the rules were modified. Instead of the standard three 5-minute rounds, the match was scheduled for three 3-minute rounds and all ground fighting was prohibited. Thirty minutes before the fight took place, the rules were further changed to prohibit any kind of kicks, knee strikes or elbow strikes, effectively turning the MMA match into a boxing match with 4-ounce MMA gloves. Morrison was victorious, breaking Stover's nose and winning by TKO at the 2:06 mark of the 1st round.
Morrison fought Corey Williams in an MMA bout with modified rules at the Albany Fair Grounds, Wyoming on January 31 2009. Morrison won via 1st Round Knock Out in which he landed a left right combination that left Williams out cold for the count. The fight was fought under Muay Thai rules.
3rd Comeback FightEdit
Morrison is scheduled to fight Australian heavyweight champion John Hopoate in Melbourne, Australia at some stage during 2009. Solomon Haumono is the back-up for the proposed pay-per-view event if Hopoate turns the fight down.
After his MMA bout victory over Corey Williams, during in-ring interviews, Morrison himself said he planned on having 6-8 more fights in Wyoming and Williams (who helped promote the card) clearly stated he was going to attempt to sign Morrison-Mercer II for Wyoming in the summer of 2009 as a WBC eliminator bout.
Announced for Fight Night Round 4Edit
Morrison will be implemented in Fight Night Round 4.
- Tommy Morrison Fight-by-Fight Career Record
- ESPN article about Morrison's time in jail
- Guardian article. The Great White Hope climbs back into the ring.