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Former heavyweight boxing champion Tommy Morrison dies at 44

September 02, 2013|By Dan Loumena
  • Tommy Morrison celebrates after defeating George Foreman for the WBO heavyweight title.
Tommy Morrison celebrates after defeating George Foreman for the WBO heavyweight… (Nick Ut / Associated Press )

Former heavyweight boxing champion Tommy Morrison, who co-starred in "Rocky V" and had his career cut short when he tested positive for HIV, has died. He was 44.

Morrison's longtime friend and former manager, Tony Holden, reported that the former boxer died in a Nebraska hospital on Sunday night. The cause of death was not released.

Morrison, a hard-hitting fighter who was known as much for legal problems as his boxing prowess, was born in Arkansas and grew up in Oklahoma. He claimed the vacant World Boxing Organization heavyweight title with a unanimous decision over George Foreman on June 7, 1993, in Las Vegas.

He lost the WBO title to Michael Bentt, who defeated Morrison by technical knockout on Oct. 29, 1993, in Tulsa, Okla. It was Morrison's second loss in 40 fights.

Morrison, who began his career with 28 consecutive victories, including the first 11 by knockout, was notified by the Nevada State Athletic Commission on Feb. 10, 1996, that he tested positive for HIV and was suspended from boxing.

He would later say the HIV tests were false positives and he would fight twice more after a more than 10-year absence from the ring, finishing with a record of 48-3-1 with 42 knockouts. His first loss came by technical knockout against Ray Mercer on Oct. 18, 1991, in a bout for the WBO championship.

Morrison, who was nicknamed "The Duke," blamed his contraction of HIV to a promiscuous lifestyle.

"I lived a permissive, fast and reckless lifestyle," said the 27-year-old Morrison, his voice halting at times. "I hope I can serve as a warning that living this lifestyle can really lead to only one thing and that's misery. ... I've never been so stupid in my life. I thought I was bulletproof and I'm not."


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