There would be no Hollywood ending to the tragic life story of former heavyweight champion Tommy Morrison. The blonde Adonis who had beaten the fearsome George Foreman for the heavyweight title and starred with Sylvester Stallone in "Rocky V" passed away late Sunday evening at the age of 44, putting an end to a short and sad drama.
With flowing blonde hair, baby-blue eyes, a chiseled body and a powerful left hook, Morrison rose from a rough and tumble upbringing in Jay, Oklahoma to appear on the big screen and become a star in the heavyweight division.
Morrison was cast as Tommy "Machine" Gunn in the 1990 film, Rocky V. Reception to the movie was generally negative and was considered a very disappointing conclusion to the presumed ending of the series at the time, with the box office gross significantly lower than its predecessors. Yet, it did give Morrison exposure and piqued audience interest in following his boxing career.
He rebounded from a brutal fifth round knockout at the hands of Ray Mercer in his first world title fight in October 1991 to challenge George Foreman for the vacant WBO heavyweight belt less than two years later. Morrison outboxed Foreman with a smart and disciplined game plan that neutralized "Big George's" massive power, winning the championship by unanimous decision on June 7, 1993.
With a big money fight looming against Lennox Lewis, Morrison suffered a shocking first round TKO loss in a tune-up bout to unknown Michael Bentt in the second defense of his title in October 1993. The unexpected outcome would be a foreshadowing of things to come three years later.
Just a few hours away from a comeback bout that was supposed to lead him to Mike Tyson in 1996, Morrison received news inside the crowded casino at the MGM Grand that he had tested positive for the HIV virus.
Following this discovery, Morrison held a press conference on ESPN to address the situation.
“To my family and my friends, I wish that there was somehow a way that I could go through this by myself,” Morrison said. “I’m sorry that I’ve had to drag you guys through this with me. Many times in my life, I’ve had to pick myself up off the floor. This has certainly been one of those times.”
Since that time, Morrison had great difficulty picking himself up and facing the toughest fight of his life. Subsequent and ongoing denial of even having the disease, issues with drugs, failing health and multiple convictions for driving under the influence, assault and drug and weapons charges all contributed to the final scene of this troubled life. No official cause of death was released, but it has been reported that he died of respiratory and metabolic acidosis and multiple organ failure.
Long since going through the estimated $16 million he made in the ring, Morrison's life wasn't a Rocky movie. Sadly, there would be no miracle saving him at the end.
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