“Tommy ‘The Machine’ Gunn”
Appearing in: Rocky V
Born on January 2, 1969 in Jay, Oklahoma, Tommy Morrison is a former boxer who was once world Heavyweight champion. Morrison has had a troubled life outside the ropes of the boxing ring. His nickname is The Duke, and he is the grandnephew of Hollywood legend John Wayne.
Morrison started boxing professionally November 10, 1988, with a first round knockout of William Muhammad in New York City. Twenty days later, he scored another first round knockout win.
In 1989, Morrison had 19 wins, 15 by knockout. Among the fighters beaten were former Mike Tyson opponents Lorenzo Boyd, Dave Jaco and Lorenzo Canady, as well as former George Foreman opponents Steve Zouski and Ken Lakusta.
CAST BY STALLONE AS TOMMY GUNN
His biggest breakthrough, however, came in 1990, and it wasn’t directly related to his boxing career: During one of his 1989 fights, Sylvester Stallone was a spectator, and he was looking for an actor to oppose him in Rocky V. After seeing Morrison, he arranged for Morrison to have a script reading, and Morrison went to Los Angeles, where he was cast as Tommy Gunn in the movie. While Morrison did win two fights in 1990, it was when Rocky V was released in December of that year that he gained mainstream popularity.
In 1991, Morrison, already the receiver of much television exposure, won four fights before being given a world championship try. Among the fighters he beat were former Larry Holmes world title challenger and Tyson opponent James Quick Tillis, and former world champion Pinklon Thomas. In his first gala boxing event, Morrison was given a crack at becoming world Heavyweight champion by WBO champ Ray Mercer in a Pay Per View card held on October 18 of ’91. Morrison lost what turned out to be a highlight film knockout in round five.
Morrison had six wins in 1992, including one over former Riddick Bowe opponent Art Tucker, and one over future world title challenger Joe Hipp, who later became the first Indian to challenge for the world’s Heavyweight title. After having two wins in 1993, including one over two time former world title challenger Carl Williams, Morrison found himself fighting for the world championship again, this time against Foreman, On June 7, of that year. Morrison upset many critics by outpointing Foreman over 12 rounds, winning the world title. Almost immediately, talks of a fight with WBC world champion Lennox Lewis began, although it would not have been a unification bout, because the WBC has always refused to have diplomatical relations with the WBO.
Talks of a Morrison-Lewis fight, however, momentarily came to a stop because Morrison was himself upset in his first defense by virtually unknown Michael Bentt, being knocked out in round one in front of a live HBO Boxing audience.
He recovered by winning three bouts in a row in 1994, but then, he drew in his last fight of the year, against another virtual unknown, Ross Puritty, in a fight televised by ESPN.
He won three fights in 1995 before meeting Razor Ruddock on Pay Per View for the IBC Heavyweight Championship. This fight was named fight of the year by various magazines, as Morrison dropped Ruddock several times, but had to climb off the canvas in round one himself before scoring a sixth round knockout win.
The fight with Lewis, who had also lost his world championship, finally came off after the fight against Ruddock. Lewis stopped Morrison in six rounds.
HIV ENDS PROFESSIONAL BOXING CAREER
A few days before his next fight, to be shown on Showtime, Morrison had an HIV test done by the Nevada state athletic commission, which keeps strict guard of their competitors’ health. It was revealed during Showtime’s telecast of the boxing undercard, that Morrison was on a flight back to Oklahoma City, place that he had made his home for most of his life, after tests revealed he was HIV-positive, automatically retiring him from boxing as a competitor.
Later in 1996, Morrison announced that he wished to make a comeback with one more bout, the proceeds of which would go to benefit his newly created KnockOut Aids Foundation. Morrison won what would turn out to be his final fight, a first round knockout of Marcus Rhodes on Pay Per View in Tokyo. Morrison finished his boxing career with a record of 46 wins, 3 losses, 1 draw, with 40 of his wins by knockout.
Morrison spent 14 months in prison after retiring on drug and weapons charges. On September 9, 2003, Tommy and his wife Dawn were blessed with a baby boy, Tristin Duke Morrison.
Morrison revealed to Sports Illustrated that he once contacted Sly Stallone about working in the possible production of Rocky VI (Rocky Balboa), and he said that he wanted to pursue a career in acting. He also wrote portions of an autobiography, but did not find a publisher.
Tommy passed away on September 1, 2013 at the young age of just 44. The causes of death were stated as being cardiac arrest, septicemia, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and multiorgan failure.