Tommy Morrison: the tragic story of the boxer who played Rocky Balboa’s “traitor ward” – Big Bang! News

He is one of the most hated characters in the entire Rocky saga, perhaps the most hated after the Russian Iván Drago, or perhaps head to head. Because he gave Rocky back his will to live at a very hard time in his life and then he defrauded his trust for a few coins. His name, in Rocky V, is Tommy “Machine” Gunn, a play on words that refers to the machine gun. He approached Rocky on the street, told him that he admired him a lot, and asked him to train him. Balboa gave his best and taught him everything he knew. Meanwhile, Tommy Gunn won and won, taking advantage of his talent, his physical power and Rocky’s good advice. At one point in the film, the young man bitterly reproaches Balboa for having a 24-0 record and yet he has not yet had the opportunity to fight for the world title. In real life, that was exactly the record held by Tommy Morrison, the boxer who played Tommy Gunn, at the time of the film’s release in November 1990.

This is not the only coincidence between the character and the actor: just like Tommy Gunn, Tommy Morrison became world champion. Like Tommy Gunn, Morrison won his title amid a thunderous whistle from the crowd. Tommy Gunn won the title from Union Cane, a boxer who had taken the vacant title after Rocky’s retirement. The public chants Rocky’s name, in reproach for Gunn’s attitude, who fired him as a trainer to put himself under the orders of the mobster boxing promoter George Washington Duke, who offers him the gold and the Moor, buys him a luxury car and gets him obviously rented “girlfriends”. Anyone who knows a little bit about boxing will discover that “George Washington Duke” is a thinly disguised alter ego of Don King, resembling him physically and in attitude. Despite the lesson that the film should have taught him, the truth is that Tommy Morrison signed a multimillion-dollar contract precisely with Don King: 38.5 million dollars for three fights, the third of which would be against Mike Tyson. But let’s not rush.

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Morrison won the title by defeating George Foreman on points on June 12, 1993. Foreman was a boxing legend (thanks to his great fights with Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali) but, at the time of the fight, he was 43 years old. Tommy, who was 24, adopted a conservative strategy that helped him easily win the fight: he avoided the exchanges of blows and stayed distant using his arm reach and “dancing” the fight, knowing that the only chance that Foreman had to beat him was a KO blow.

In the film, Tommy Gunn describes a terrible childhood with an abusive father. Morrison’s real life was the same or worse than his character’s: his father was an alcoholic and took him to “debut” sexually at the age of 14 at a strip club; his mother was accused of murder and his older brother spent no less than 15 years in prison for rape. Given these circumstances, Tommy found an outlet and a consolation in the sport of fists.

His amateur career was extraordinary: 220 wins and 20 losses. He was about to go to the Olympics in Seoul, but lost on points to Ray Mercer in the fight that would qualify him. Mercer would later win the gold medal in the “Heavyweight” category. When he turned pro, his first shot at his title came precisely against…Mercer! He lost by KO in the fifth round and thus said goodbye to an undefeated 28 fights, before an audience that mocked him for his participation in the film. It was then that he acquired an infamous nickname for a boxer: “Glass Jaw.” The next chance would come against Foreman, and he wouldn’t waste it. However, he would lose the title in a somewhat embarrassing way for his background and his record: in his second defense, an unknown named Michael Bentt, with just 11 fights as a professional (whom his representatives had put as a rival for the sole purpose of swell his record with an easy defense) knocked him down three times in the first round and snatched the title from him.

A succession of victories allowed him a new chance, this time with the British Lennox Lewis, but he lost by KO in the sixth round.

And Don King? “I had just signed the biggest contract of my life with Don King,” Morrison said. “Three fights. A couple of fights to warm up and then Tyson. That’s what was going to happen. That was the plan. And then it collapsed.”

What happened? In the medical control prior to the first of the three fights, in 1996, Tommy tested positive for HIV. “It is the last thing one imagines could happen. I went back to my room and the answering machine light on the phone was on. My coach wanted to see me, to have a team meeting. I walked into his room and my entire team looked at me like I was a dead man. I thought my opponent had withdrawn from the fight. Then promoter Tony Holded came up to me and said, ‘I can’t think of any other way to tell you what I’m going to tell you. Your tests came back HIV positive. We’ll get you out of here on the next plane out of Las Vegas.’ All I thought was ‘Where am I going?’ They wanted to hide me until they figured out what to say. I was dizzy. It was a ticking time bomb. I knew what was happening but there was nothing I could do to change it. It was so strange… “I never felt so alone, as if every friend I had had turned against me. They were very hard times.”

He did one more fight with special rules: if there was blood, he stopped. Under those conditions he knocked out Marcus Rhode in the first round. After an eleven-year retirement, in 2007 he returned to fight in the state of West Virginia. He presented HIV tests, real or false, we will never know, that they had given him negative. He never fully accepted that he was HIV positive. However, his gradual physical deterioration seemed to indicate so. Tommy died on September 1, 2013, at the age of 44. His record as a professional was 48 wins, one draw and three losses, although his detractors claim that he “inflated” him too much with inconsequential rivals. The official cause of his death was respiratory acidosis and multiple organ failure, derived from being a carrier of HIV. His widow, Trisha, denies to this day that he had HIV and filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) and Quest Diagnostics, the body and company that performed the test. The reason for the lawsuit is very simple: if Trisha can prove that Tommy died of something other than HIV, then they made him and his family lose 38.5 million dollars. And someone will have to make it up to them.

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Tommy Morrison: the tragic story of the boxer who played Rocky Balboa’s “traitor ward” – Big Bang! News


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