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Tommy Morrison Dies: Former Boxer, 'Rocky V' Star was 44

Image: Tommy Morrison Dies: Former Boxer, 'Rocky V' Star was 44

By Michael Mullins   |   Tuesday, 03 Sep 2013 07:28 AM

Tommy Morrison, the former World Boxing Organization heavyweight whose career in the ring was cut short after testing HIV-positive in 1996, has died at the age of 44.

Morrison, who was known outside the ring for starring in the 1990 movie "Rocky V," died Sunday night at a Nebraska hospital, his former manager, Tony Holden, told the Associated Press.

Morrison's family did not disclose the cause of the former heavyweight champion's death, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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Nicknamed "The Duke," Morrison won the title belt in 1993 after beating boxing great George Foreman, who at the time was 44 years old, in a unanimous 12-round decision.

The Arkansas-born, but Oklahoma raised Morrison gave up the belt almost as soon as he had won it, suffering an embarrassing first-round loss to the virtually unknown Michael Bentt in his very next fight.

"Tommy had a good left hook and quite a bit of ring savvy, and if his opponent was having a little bit of an off night, he'd win," said Bruce Trampler, the matchmaker for the boxing company Top Rank that promoted 27 of Morrison's 52 fights, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Three years before beating Foreman in the ring, the 6-foot-2 boxer, who at the time had won his first 28 professional fights, starred alongside Sylvester Stallone in "Rocky V," where he played an up-and-coming yet undisciplined young boxer named Tommy Gunn.

Following an October 1995 loss to heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, Morrison tested positive for HIV – the virus that causes AIDS, in Nevada in February 1996. His boxing license was subsequently suspended by boxing officials, who called his positive results "ironclad and unequivocal."

Days after the announcement, Morrison spoke at a news conference in Tulsa, Okla., where he acknowledged his promiscuous behavior.

"I lived a permissive, fast and reckless lifestyle," the then 27-year-old fighter said. "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."

Tommy Virgets, a former trainer of Morrison's, reaffirmed the boxer's bad boy image before the diagnosis in an interview with the Associated Press.

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"I think there was a time period there when Tommy shopped for women like going into a candy store," Virgets said. "Tommy, like so many people, got caught up in it."

Morrison was "a man's man — a ladies man even before the film role. . . Big strapping guy, a real charmer, very intelligent," Trampler added.

Morrison finished with a record of 48-3-1 with 42 knockouts.

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