The Duke vs Tommy Gunn
By Simon Graham
A young up and coming fighter from Oklahoma with humble beginnings walks into the Goldsmith gym Philadelphia, eager to impress a former heavyweight champion, his hopes and dreams are placed into the hands of his hero, together they plan for world domination.
An impressive early record is forged under the careful watchful eye of his trainer however the allure of the big time, money and a lavish lifestyle offered to him by an unscrupulous promoter will lead to the downfall of a promising boxer’s career.
You could be forgiven for thinking you are reading the synopsis of the movie Rocky V in fact and perhaps ironically Tommy Morrison’s life was almost identical to the character he portrayed on the big screen.
Morrison was a natural athlete who excelled during his school years in most sports, but due to a family tradition turned his attention to boxing amassing a formidable amateur record of 222 fights losing 20, the pinnacle being his points loss to Ray Mercer at the Olympic trials, their paths would cross again at a professional level.
Morrison turned pro in 1988, standing at 6 feet 2 with a heavyset muscular physique he quickly thundered up the heavyweight rankings recording 19 wins with 15 knockouts all within 5 rounds or less, equipped with tremendous power in either hand his signature punch was his fearsome left hook.
After a year in Hollywood, Morrison returned to the ring in 1991 and dispatched of James Tillis and Pinklon Thomas, although long past their best it was the manner in which Morrison brushed them aside that earned him his first shot at the WBO heavyweight title held by Ray Mercer.
Eager to avenge his amateur loss to Mercer, the Duke set out to destroy the champion however, having punched himself out Mercer inflicted a sickening 5th round knockout, 7 unanswered brutal headshots rendered Morrison unconscious.
This would set a trend for the rest of his career, after 6 consecutive wins, culminating in a superb point’s win over George Foreman in 1993, Morrison would be catapulted into superstardom, lucrative sponsorship deals and wealth, unfortunately with the accolades came the high society living coupled with secret drink and drug binges.
Morrison held the title for 4 months, after a non-sanctioned defence against Tim Tomashek, Michael Bent would surprisingly end his reign as champion with a 1st round TKO.
Once again on the rebuilding trail Morrison notched up a further 7 straight wins setting up a meeting with Donovan ‘Razor’ Ruddock in 1995 for the vacant IBC heavyweight title. A sensational 6 round contest saw both fighters hit the canvas with an intense show of strength by both men, Morrison rallied to victory forcing the referee to stop the fight in his favour.
Talks had taken place for a super fight between Morrison and Lennox Lewis for the WBO title, however, the subsequent loss to Bent in 1993 meant that the two would not face each other until 1995. In a must-win battle for both fighters, Lewis sensationally dropped Morrison 4 times over 6 rounds.
Once again Morrison found himself having to rebuild his career, a money-spinning deal offered by Don King to fight Mike Tyson had the boxing world drooling with anticipation, regrettably, Morrison’s career would come crashing to an abrupt end.
Morrison was forced to retire from boxing, aged just 27.
From that day on he struggled, as so many fighters do, to adjust to a life without boxing. Morrison endured 11 tough years in the wilderness full of self-denial and personal demons, during which time he spent 14 months in prison on drug and weapon charges.
Morrison finished his career with record of 52 bouts and 48 wins, with 42 inside the distance.