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Tommy Morrison: What Could Have Been?

Boxing history is littered with stories of what might have been, the story of heavyweight Tommy Morrison is one such tale.

Morrison turned pro in 1988 and very quickly built up a long winning record, fighting the usual blend of journeyman and past their prime fighters. The likes of Pinklon Thomas and James Tillis were effortlessly dispatched, the win against the former World heavyweight champion Thomas in 1991 improved his record to 26-0.

In between rising through the heavyweight ranks, Morrison took a leading role in the much-maligned Rocky V, playing the protégé of Rocky Balboa in the latest instalment of the Rocky franchise.

The role of Tommy Gunn in Rocky helped further promote the profile of Morrison. Nicknamed The Duke, Team Morrison claimed their man was a distant relative of John Wayne, he wasn’t but the claim did its job.

Morrison had fast hands and a big left hook and was already being talked about as a serious contender in the heavyweight division.

But there were problems behind the scenes, Morrison liked to party, he had a big entourage, and when you live life and not a fighter’s life, it was never going to end well.

After the Thomas fight, Morrison fought Yuri Vaulin, and he had a real struggle in the opening 4 rounds, before finding the punches to finish the fight in the 5th.

Two fights later in 1991 Morrison got his big opportunity against Ray Mercer for the WBO heavyweight championship of the world. Morrison fought well for 4 rounds, but he was starting to gas and Mercer had taken his best punches. Mercer finished it in the next round, it was a brutal finish and Morrison took far too many unanswered and unnecessary punches.

After losing his unbeaten record, Morrison tried to rebuild his career and a series of wins including a win over Carl Williams, earned him another chance at the WBO title this time against George Foreman in 1993.

Morrison boxed largely on the retreat, landing his combinations and not staying in the pocket long enough for Foreman to get his own heavy artillery off. Morrison got the decision and there was now talk of a multi-million fight with Lennox Lewis.

Before the proposed Lewis fight, he took a fight with the lightly regarded Michael Bentt. In simple terms Morrison blew it, he hardly trained, thinking a win was a formality, and he got stopped in one round in a monumental upset.

Morrison fought on and he got some more wins including a thriller with Donovan ‘Razor’ Ruddock, but a one-sided loss to Lennox Lewis when they finally did meet in 1995 and the Morrison story looked over.

Signing with Don King and talk of a fight with Mike Tyson was his last chance but Morrison failed a pre-fight blood test in 1996 and his life took a dark turn.

The lifestyle of Morrison had finally caught up with, he was diagnosed with the HIV virus and his life went on a downward spiral after that.

Somehow he had two more fights over the years, and he still talked of being the world heavyweight champion again, but his career was effectively over.

Stints in prison, DUI arrests and other legal problems, even denial he had HIV, formed the majority of his final years.

In September 2013, it was announced that Morrison had died aged just 44.

There is an excellent ESPN documentary on Morrison called Tommy currently on BT Sport.

Morrison had talent but lacked the dedication to match, his lifestyle cost him his boxing career and so much more.

Morrison finished with a 48-3-1 record.



  • Mark Cress
    09/03/2018 at 5:26 pm

    He was all he could be except a practicer of safe sex!

  • Jay Beveridge
    08/03/2018 at 9:55 pm

    He was.damaged goods after Mercer destroyed him. He’s totally one of my favourite heavyweight boxers though.

  • Sherwyn Mahomed
    08/03/2018 at 8:35 pm

    Klinton Chetty