Tommy Morrison was once looked upon as a Greek god. He stood 6 foot 2 and was a chiseled 235-pound machine. His arms looked like torpedoes when he launched them at opposing fighters in the ring. His physique and good looks landed him a starring role in Rocky V, back in 1990. Now, 23 years later, Morrison is dead at the age of 44.
Morrison was no longer the Adonis he had once been. At his death, he was a mere shadow of himself. The reason for that is up for debate, at least to Morrison and his wife at his time of death, Trisha. The former heavyweight champion of the world lived in a world of denial, even to his dying day.
Nicknamed “The Duke” for his family connection to John Wayne, he started his boxing career back in 1988. He won his first fight by TKO in round one, defeating William Muhammad. He would win 27 consecutive fights, finally meeting Ray Mercer for the WBO Heavyweight Title. Mercer knocked him out in five tough rounds.
Morrison got off the mat and fought eight more times before another title shot presented itself. He was award a fight with George Foreman for the WBO Heavyweight belt. The fight went the distance, with Morrison winning the title on decision. It would be the only time that Morrison would hold a title belt in his career.
Once he won the title, Morrison got pulled into the big time lifestyle. He lived life on the edge, and partied as hard as anyone ever had. Only four months after winning the title, Morrison would lose the strap to unheralded Michael Bentt, via a first round knockout. He would get one more title shot, in 1995, against Lennox Lewis. Lewis, in his prime, pummeled Morrison, knocking him out in the sixth round.
Shortly after his 1988 debut, Morrison caught the eye of a movie screen fighter, Sylvester Stallone. The original Rocky saw something in Morrison, and cast him as Tommy “The Machine” Gunn in Rocky V. He was a Rocky protégé who goes rouge, but it only enhanced the aura of Morrison.
In 1996, his life turned upside down. As he prepared to fight a comeback bout, he failed a blood test. He had tested positive for HIV. Suddenly, the Golden Boy was a no touch fighter. Various states would not sanction his fights. At first, Morrison seemed to accept his diagnosis, but then his view was altered completely.
Shortly after though, something in his mind changed. He became convinced that, not only did he not have HIV, but that the disease itself did not exist. He found doctors who did blood tests that said he was clean. He planned comeback fights in the early to mid 2000s. It was clear though that, without help of medications that were helping other sufferers, Morrison was deteriorating.
Morrison kept up his beliefs, which his wife held, as well. She continued to have unprotected sex with Morrison, thinking that it mattered little because he did not have the HIV virus. Morrison passed away September 1, 2013, believing to his last breath that he suffered from anything but the HIV virus. One wonders if he might still be around today if he had stayed on the treatment plan that was laid out for him.