The parable that traveled Tommy Morrison throughout his life is, perhaps, one of the most extravagant in boxing history. Her destiny wandered between glory and sunset at every moment. Constant lights and shadows. Her last name rose to world fame with the leading role she landed in Rocky V., just in line with the rapid rise of his official statistics as a fighter above the ring. Thirteen years later, the wake of that sports star he became married to two women At the same time, he died out almost silently between controversies, a journey of addictions, and the punishment of a disease in his body.
He officially got into the ring towards the end of 1988, two years before the premiere of the fifth installment of the legendary saga starring Sylvester Stallone. Although he was only 19 years old, he was not a rookie: at the end of the eighth grade he dropped out of school, went to work with his father in construction, and in Oklahoma he finished giving shape to his passion for boxing. At 10, he already had a tattoo of two gloves on his shoulder from his mother, a woman who spent nine months in prison on charges of a bar crime when Tommy was 4. With this background, the small-town teenager fought in an exotic contest in which everyone from bar security personnel to motorcycle gang members participated. “You had to be at least 21 years old to participate. She fought under a pseudonym, because I was 15 years old. He beat grown guys. It was easy money for him,” recalled his friend Eric Elder in the fantastic documentary titled Tommy, which is part of the production 30 for 30 of ESPN. He made 21 presentations: he won 20.
There he gave life to one of his many legends: claimed to be related to popular actor John Wayne by his father. Little by little, his coaches took advantage of this myth that was never fully clarified and named it The Dukea nickname that the artist who won an Oscar in 1969 for his role in the western True Grit.
In 1989 came his time to explode: He made 19 fights over 12 months, remained undefeated, and accumulated 15 KOs, eleven of them in the first round.. The great white promise of the heavyweights was a common name on the combat marquees of ESPN during the weekends, and Frank Stallone, Sylvester’s brother and a boxing fan, saw it. He told her about Morrison, and they quickly hired him to play Tommy Gunn, the lead in the fifth installment that the actor was producing at the time.
According to the specialized site IMDB, Rocky V. It is the least valued by fans of the entire great saga (including the spin off of believe), and even marked the closure for more than a decade and a half of the story that Stallone popularized. However, that lackluster production made Tommy Gunn become a celebrity and all eyes turned to his true life above the ring.
The blond, small-town boy from Oklahoma was suddenly a celebrity. The great white hope that North America is always tracking in boxing, especially at a time when the star division was dominated by Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, George Foreman and Evander Holyfield. Three years after his debut, he already had a chance to be world champion –backed by his 28-0 record– against Ray Mercera 1988 Seoul Olympic gold medalist who was coming off the title earlier.
In unison, the bad together began to erode his chances of being a boxing glory. Tommy “didn’t like to be alone,” and his trainers recalled this in the aforementioned documentary released in 2017: “We had friends in the bars, and at midnight they called us: ‘Hey, come get your boy, he’s passed out on the floor. They better come before the media'”. Morrison would ride with his entourage of friends on duty in limousines, and toured the bars inviting drinks to the nearly 20 men who usually accompanied him. His team had identified a vicious cycle: They were convincing him to focus on his career because it would give him several millions to enjoy years later, and he was reflective. Days later, the call from the bars came again.
It was not the only peculiar situation that the athlete lived outside the ring: he was in a relationship with two women at the same time without them knowing of the existence of the other. This is not counting the multiple occasional relationships he had on his different nights out, to such an extent that the members of his environment assured that he had one “relationship per day” with different people.
The tracks of his promising career and his unbalanced personal life seemed to collide. The first shock of the constant glory and decline that were his days suffered against Mercer in the mounted ring in Atlantic City on October 18, 1991.
The blond giant looked like he was going to overwhelm his rival. The initial rounds showed him dominating and even Mercer repeats today that he had never been hit “so hard” as Morrison did that day. Until that fifth round, everyone believed that it would be time to see Tommy at the top. It could be by KO or by cards, but he was headed for an inexorable triumph. He was going to be the world heavyweight champion of the World Boxing Organization (WBO). Something went wrong.
“I had also faced him for the qualification to the Olympic Games. I beat him, it was easy. He hit hard, but he had data that he used steroids. We had the press conference in New York, in Times Square, and we took our shirts off. My bodyguard had won a World’s Strongest Man contest twice. When he saw his back, he told me: ‘That’s based on steroids’”, Mercer said in an interview with the site The Mayweather Channel during 2017. The strategy, as explained in the documentary, was to wait for Morrison to get tired of consuming these hormones. And so it was in the fifth round. The impressive postcard of that brutal knockout was on the cover of the magazine The Ring of that edition.
The great hope white It turned out to be a disappointment in the blink of an eye. Everyone thought that his projection had been exaggerated as a result of his time in the cinema. Tommy came to his senses, finally. He resumed the boxing path. Eight knockouts over 13 months in his appearances against Bobby Quarry, Jerry Halstead, Kimmuel Odum, Art Tucker, Joe Hipp, Marshall Tillman, Carl Williams and Dan Murphy. He showed that he had potential and that his level was not an invention of the cinema. He also had the epic share of him on that tour, when he defeated in the 9th round The Boss Hipp with broken hands and injured jaw. The criticism was once again praise, and once again the chance to be a world champion presented itself before him.
June 7, 1993, Las Vegas. Rival: george foreman. Big George he had spent a decade out of the rings after his golden days against Joe Frazier or Muhammad Ali. From 1987 onwards, the date of his return, he had only lost one fight out of 28, and that had been against Evander Holyfield for the divisional world crowns. At 44 years old, Foreman was a justified candidate for the vacant World Boxing Organization (WBO) title as was Morrison.. Tommy dreamed of redeeming himself. And he did it: The fight was lackluster for viewers, but his team says it was “the best fight of Tommy’s career.” That night sold out and with several million dollars at stake, the judges saw him win unanimously by 117-110, 118-109 and 117-110.
“He was a good puncher. He had a good style, because he could hit and he moved his head well. I thought I would have a good career. Fame can be hard. One day, no one pays attention to you. The next you’re this cute, popular guy that everyone wants a piece of and your whole world explodes.. And if he is not ready for it, he can take him on a journey that will take him faster than he wants to the last day of his life, ”Foreman recalled in 2013 in statements that the newspaper replied. Los Angeles Times.
Tommy was back in the race. He had an contract of more than 8 million dollars on the table to fight in 1994 with the intention of reaching a star fight against lennox lewisone of the most important heavyweights of the moment. “Tommy was getting into trouble”they recalled from their team in the production that they directed for ESPN Erin Leyden and Gentry Kirby. After beating Tim Tomashek, they organized a fight for him that should be simple and preparatory to finally meeting the British giant.
In October 1993, everything was set for him to celebrate in Tulsa, his place of residence. michael bentt, with a recognized career in amateurism but little professional performance, would be his tester. On paper, there wasn’t much to worry about and Morrison put it that way with his attitude. The night before the evening, witnesses say that he went to a concert and drank beer. The next day, The Duke He lived perhaps the saddest day of his career and lost by knockout in the first round. “This is how Tommy Morrison’s eight million dollar check disappeared”, the combat reporter automatically shouted when the unexpected result was consummated. In seconds, he went from being a millionaire to earning a few thousand dollars that were not enough to support his messy lifestyle. Goodbye world belt.
Glory, sunset, reinvention. Again the formula was repeated. He secluded himself in Oklahoma, changed his look baby face by a padlock beard and moved away from the “city distractions” in a calmer environment. Two years later, she got a new chance at his life. That trail was typed with six knockouts, one unanimous decision win and one draw. His name was interesting again and a good part of it had to do with his attractive fights, like the one he starred in in mid-1995 against Donovan Ruddockthe man who had fought Lennox Lewis and left Mike Tyson exposed despite failing to defeat him. He fell, got up and in the sixth round ended the fight with a brutal left hand to the chin of razor that left him lying on the center of the ring.
The route had been longer, but the stellar chance had arrived. In Atlantic City, she fought in October 1995 against lennox lewiswho had lost his undefeated title and world title a year earlier. Tommy’s magical flame had gone out and he failed to gain a footing in the six rounds that the battle lasted until Lewis defeated him by KO.
However, there were still several chapters left in Morrison’s story. Most of them scandalous, controversial or obscure. His assistants believed that there was still a way to revive his career and They called Don King with the idea of relaunching his career and reached a million-dollar deal that would end with a fight against Tyson. It was the beginning of the end…
On February 10, 1996, the Nevada Athletic Commission prevented his fight against Arthur Weathers for “medical reasons”, without giving further specifications. The results of his routine blood test had shown that he had HIV. “At that time if you had HIV you would die, it was a death sentence”recalled his manager Tony Holden in the documentary.
Five days later, with the news on the front page of all the media, the 27-year-old gave a press conference in Tulsa: “In the last three days I have been contacting the people that I had physical contact with in the last three days. or four years. There are many fellow practitioners that I have worked with over the past few years. If there is anyone who feels they have been in contact with me, either directly or indirectly, please get tested. There was a time in my life when I had a permissive, crazy and reckless lifestyle.. I knew that anyone could get this disease, but I also believed that the chances of getting it were very slim,” he told the world. The subject had unusual tails: In local newspapers they reported that the HIV test centers had increased their inquiries notably and that Tommy’s case generated “concern” in that community. His brother related his disease to the drugs to improve sexual performance that he injected.
Around that time, Dawn Freeman-Hosterman, one of his two girlfriends, found a letter from Dawn Brady, his other formal partner. They both agreed to a meeting and found out that she had been dating both of them for a long time. Morrison made a decision in the midst of this strange personal situation: He proposed to Hosterman to marry in Las Vegas and they did so in May 1996. However, she did not cut off her relationship with Brady. Months later, Tommy “crossed the border” with his other partner to also get married. “I ended up having a certificate that we were married.”she recalled in the documentary about that union in Mexico.
The spiral of conflicts grew considerably. He tried to be a television boxing commentator, but a new scandal engulfed him after he was arrested for drunk driving, and he lost his job. Sunset had come. He got biceps implants to have a youthful image of him. The scar became infected and complicated his health. He stopped taking his medicines for HIV and as a counterpart the abuse in cocaine consumption increased, according to what his mother recalled. By the year 2000 he had parted ways with Hosterman. “He had a good heart, but a very troubled soul”she recalled in an interview that the newspaper replied Tulsa World in 2013.
In January 2000 ended up in prison after being arrested in Arkansas with methamphetamine, cocaine and weapons. A year later he was released despite his 10-year sentence and sought to revive his sports career. Little remained in the appearance and in the statements of that Tommy who had dazzled the world in Rocky V.. A new battle began that to this day remains unfinished: claimed that the positive HIV test had been a lie to harm him or a mistake.
He had three presentations as a boxer after that suspended fight against Weathers. In November 1996 beat in Tokyo to Marcus Rhode in an evening that had Foreman as the central actor, who invited him to box. To February 2007 reappeared in the ring against John Castle already with 38 years. He fought in West Virginia, and around those years the The New York Times explained that Tommy had had two blood tests to support his claim that he was not infected with HIV. The article then raised the controversial case of him, with views in favor of the boxer’s position and against it. “A lot of races have been destroyed on the road for no reason. Mine has certainly been one of them.”, the aforementioned medium replied to his words at the time. The question was focused on the possibility of a “false positive” or doubt about the authenticity of the new tests that the boxer had presented.
In June of that 2007, he had a fleeting passage through the cage of mixed martial arts with a victory by KO against John Stover in the first round among the boos of those present in a fight that also had its controversy because the rules were modified hours before jumping into the octagon. In the middle of all this, his former agent Radny Lang accused Tommy on the site of ESPN for tampering with his blood tests, but Morrison denied it. The event was held outside the jurisdiction of the state boxing commission.
His last memory, much more from the statistical point of view than from the media, occurred with a fight in the Mexican city of León against his compatriot Matt Weishaar. That February of 2008, an overweight Morrison, visibly deteriorated from a physical point of view, he won by KO in the third round to close a history of 48 victorious presentations (42 KO) and 3 losses in boxing. Although his last three fights were outside the official regulations.
Accused of drug offences, his last images were seen in 2011. The wake of the great white promise it had vanished almost two decades ago. Morrison was photographed by the Police before that complaint and a video was also released declaring. Physically emaciated, disoriented in his words before the authorities, he was no longer the smiling Morrison and deft declarant of his golden years.
Accompanied by Trisha, his new wife, died on September 1, 2013 under the strictest silence as a result of a delicate state of health due to an illness that was never clear. The previous two years she had been fighting his weak medical condition. “He looked at me but he didn’t see me,” his historic manager recalled in the documentary about the last visit he made to his old friend.
His story, still today, lives on. Trisha married him in 2011. and assured days before his death that Tommy’s health problem it had been triggered because a doctor had left a piece of surgical gauze on him for eight days after a medical intervention. He was also accompanying Morrison on his crusade: at the time, he assured Morrison ESPN what tommy had Guillain-Barré syndrome but never confirmed HIV. To this day, they are still continuing the legal battle over the boxer who died at the age of 44. According to the specialized site world boxing newsthe Las Vegas court would reconsider his case and reinvestigate the tests.
In unison, as if the memory of their two lives insisted on continuing to beat, their two sons are also paid boxers accompanied by their historic manager. Trey Morrison He is the most physically similar to his father: at 31 years old, he has 16 victories; all by knockout. james is 30 years old and his card accumulates 17 wins (15 by KO) and 2 draws. Both are undefeated.
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