Tommy The Duke Morrison in His Own Words on Maury Povich, and What Followed
By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
When a medical test is not enough in the field of sports, sometimes the courts deal with people involved. Sometimes the person involved tell his or her own story. In the case of athletes and steroids, the courts are now dealing with athletes in baseball, bicycle racing, basketball and other sports for illegal substance abuse violations. In the case of boxers with HIV / AIDS, the sport of boxing lost Esteban DeJesus, while boxers like Paul Banke and Lamar Parks live with the disease. In the case of Tommy Morrison, Morrison originally went public in 1996 in a televised press conference, and again on the Maury Povich Television Show discussing his HIV positive status, a status he now denies 11 years later.
CBS Television Philadelphia, in its 2012 online photo gallery of famous people living with HIV, still cites Tommy Morrison, an American heavyweight boxer and former World Boxing Organization World Heavyweight champion, as one of a number of noted famous people now living with Human Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV). Morrison went public with his HIV status in a televised press conference on February 15, 1996, after testing HIV positive in Nevada before a scheduled fight with Arthur Weathers in Las Vegas in 1996. http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/photo-galleries/2012/12/01/famous-people-living-with-hiv/
At the February 15, 1996 televised press conference, Morrison stated “I was informed just a little while ago that I was tested, in fact confirmed, I tested positive for the HIV virus. To all my young fans out there, I ask that you no longer see me as a role model, but see me as an individual who had the opportunity to be a role model, and blew it. I hope that I can serve as a warning, that living this lifestyle can only lead to one thing, and that’s misery.”
Morrison went public again on the Maury Povich Show on February 27, 1996. At the time, Morrison stated he had a roadmap of fights planned, leading to a world title fight with Iron Mike Tyson later on that year in late 1996. He also spoke about his views on athlete Earvin Magic Johnson’s contracting HIV, and his conversations with Johnson after his diagnosis. Morrison spoke of ‘the crazy life style he lived for three to four years’ during his six years living in Kansas City, a downward spiral which occurred after he won the WBO World Heavyweight title from George Foreman. Povich refers onscreen to Tommy’s promiscuity.
Tommy Morrison on Maury Povich Part I, February 27, 1997, on YouTube
Tommy Morrison on Maury Povich Part II on YouTube February 1997
Tommy Morrison on Maury Povich Part III on YouTube February 1997
Tommy Morrison on Maury Povich Part IV on YouTube February 1997
Morrison stated on Maury Povich: “I’ve always been a very guilt prone athlete. I’ve always had a history of being very hard on myself, and now I have to pay the ultimate price for being irresponsible. I’m holding together very good (but) I think I’m (still) a little bit in denial at this point. I haven’t totally accepted that this is happening to me, but I’m dealing with it each and every day, I’m accepting it a little bit more. I feel great! I haven’t been sick in three years. I’m bigger, faster, (and) stronger than I’ve ever been in my life, so this came as a huge shock to me. Now it’s all over. Due to the situation (my HIV positive status) it’s all gone. It was very apparent to me something wasn’t right, my first response (upon being told) was I have to get some additional blood drawn, and make sure this for sure a fact. I had a hard time believing it. You never picture something like this happening to you.”
“This is a disease (HIV / AIDS) that a lot of people associate with people that subject themselves to lots of different lifestyles, IV drug users, things like that. We had some additional tests run we were waiting on. We were having some initial tests done. You always hang your hat on that possibility, that there was a screw up (with the HIVB positive 1996 Nevada blood test results). When we got the (additional blood) tests back, and I found out for sure, I had to make a statement. I had to have a press conference. I realized I had lived a very reckless life. Here I am supposed to be a big tough guy. I think I walked around in life thinking I was bulletproof, and now I’ve gotta pay the ultimate price.”
I don’t know how I got it (HIV / AIDS). I don’t rule out the possibility I got it in the ring. I certainly wouldn’t (rule it out). Over the years, I’ve dealt with thousands of sparring partners. I’ve had 49 professional fights, and I lived a crazy lifestyle for many years. You don’t really know (where you contract HIV, in my case). You’re talking boxing is a blood on blood sport, and it is (also) a possibility (my) leading a reckless lifestyle for a number of years probably didn’t help any. There was a period of three or four years when I was out of control. I reached a point after the George Foreman fight (when I won the WBO world heavyweight title) that I surrounded myself with the kind of people who didn’t have my best interests at heart, and allowed myself to get sucked into that sort of (bad) lifestyle.”
“If I can somehow get out there and educate not only myself but other people, if I can make one other high school or college kid have a more responsible attitude
towards sex, than that would be a bigger victory than I could have ever won in the ring. Not in a million years (did I think I could get HIV). I’m here to tell you it’s for real. It changed my whole life, and will continue to change it. It’s going to be tough to deal with. I’ve pretty much accepted it now (my HIV positive status). It’s going to take some time. I want to find a way to get out and make people understand, particularly people of my generation, this is something that doesn’t care where you live (or) what color you are. It’s not a black disease. It’s not a homosexual disease. It’s not a Hispanic disease. It’s everybody’s disease now. People need to step up to the plate and be more responsible.”
Morrison would wind up sleeping with women he met at autograph sessions “Almost always, almost always. That was something I look at (it) now, and I’m very ashamed of it. It’s amazing that something like this had to happen to an individual, be it me or anyone else, for them to realize, this really makes it hit home (my HIV positive status). If there was any way I could do it all over again, oh how I would live a different life. I’m going to do everything I can in my life to take the biggest negative-and turn it into the biggest positive.”
“I met with one of the top medical experts in the country. It (my HIV) is in the earliest stages. From the looks of it I contracted it in the past year, year and a half. I have been in touch with Magic Johnson’s doctor. He will put me in touch with a doctor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I live. That will be the guy I check in with every now and then. They’ve got a lot of different medications now. Actually there are several they feel are most promising (which) haven’t been released yet. I’ll probably get on some of that real quick.”
It’s sad it (contracting HIV) had to happen to me, but there’s so much good I can do with it. This is something I don’t think happened in boxing. My lifestyle, being irresponsible, is why I’m sitting here today. Yes (my boxing career is over). I don’t think the boxing public, and particularly fighters in general (would accept my returning to the ring as a boxer now as) they don’t know enough about it (HIV) to accept the idea of me coming back.”
“I feel very guilty. At first, it was anger. I’ve gotten a little wiser, a little older. I was just real guilty. Anger at first, believing it happened (I had HIV), and accepting the idea that it did happen. And then after it sets in, you feel very guilty and very shameful for being so irresponsible. Our generation has totally disregarded our moral values, teachings taught to us by our parents. We teach sex as a sort of social behavior. The important thing (right now) isn’t how I got it, or where I got it, but where do I (as an HIV positive individual) go from here? (with my life)”
Smoking Joe Frazier appears on the show. Maury asks Joe if Tommy is making the right decision to retire from boxing. Smoking Joe Frazier responds: “I would say yes. Tommy wouldn’t want anything to happen to his opponent. I think it’s a good decision.” Maury finished by telling Tommy he has the chance to have a huge impact on millions of people. Tommy never mentions the words HIV or AIDS during the entire Maury Povich segment.
At another news conference on September 19, 1996, Morrison announced he wished to fight one last time, to benefit his KnockOut Aids Foundation. To treat his HIV infection, Morrison said he was taking antiviral medication, which had reduced his viral load to almost undetectable levels. On November 3, 1996, Morrison returned to the ring as the only boxer in history with HIV allowed to do so, and stopped Marcus Rhode in the first round in Chiba, Japan, after knocking him down three times for a TKO. The bout was fought under unorthodox rules. If either fighter got cut, the bout would go to the scorecards.
In 1996, Morrison pleaded guilty to possession of a loaded firearm. In 1997 and 1999, Morrison was convicted of Driving While Intoxicated, resulting in treatment with a suspended sentence. In 1999, Morrison was arrested on drugs and firearms charges, and arrested again for intoxication and possession of a weapon. In 2000, Morrison was sentenced to two years in prison. In 2002, Morrison was sentenced to another year in prison for violating parole, but got credit for time already served while he was locked up.
In 2006, Morrison claimed a false positive HIV test, and stated his intention to return to the ring in both boxing and Mixed Martial Arts, which he did. After 11 years out of the boxing ring, Morrison returned to the ring in West Virginia in February 2007, stopping John Castle in the second round of their scheduled four rounder. West Virginia’s medical tests for boxers did not include a blood test. On June 25, 2007, Morrison, using five ounce gloves, won his MMA debut in Camp Verde, Arizona, knocking out 7-2 340 pound John Stover at 2:08 of the first round, after breaking Stover’s nose with a straight right hand. The bout had a prefight stipulation preventing Stover from grappling. Morrison was also allowed to wear shoes, which is normally not allowed in MMA competition. The MMA bout was staged on the Yavapai-Apache Nation, which is outside of the Arizona State boxing commission’s jurisdiction. In February 2008, Morrison stopped Matt Weishaar in the third round of a scheduled six rounder in Leon, Mexico.
In 2007, when news of Morrison’s intended return to the ring surfaced, Margaret Goodman, chairperson of the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s medical advisory board, was prompted to recheck Morrison’s HIV status after learning about his ‘miracle’ comeback. She contacted John Hiatt at the diagnostics clinic where Morrison’s blood was originally tested in 1996. “At my request, Dr. Hiatt reviewed the archived results again, and he said Morrison’s HIV positive test results are ironclad and unequivocal.”
Morrison claimed he tried to get a copy of the original test results, but was not able to do so. Goodman responded “That’s nonsense. All Morrison has to do is contact the laboratory, and they would immediately release the (1996 HIV positive blood test) results to him.”
Morrison publicly stated “I’ve got a fight scheduled for July 27 (2007) in Albuquerque (New Mexico), but they want me to get this over with first. In the next week to 10 days, I’m going to Nevada, and I’ll (blood) test again … to clear this up.” Morrison never returned to Nevada to retest after making this statement. Nevada officials remained adamant Morrison’s 1996 HIV positive test results confirmed Morrison has the HIV virus.
According to Attorney Randy Lang, who was in Tommy Morrison’s camp as his agent for the first ten months of his intended ‘comeback’, Morrison intended to return to the ring in February 2007 in a four round bout in Arizona. Lang stated the test results from blood collected January 5, 2007, indicated Morrison had tested positive again for HIV-1 antibodies, which was reported in The Arizona Republic before Morrison’s MMA fight in Arizona on Native American land. On request, Lang provided the documentation to ESPN. http://sports.espn.go.com/sports/boxing/news/story?id=2899260
Lang stated Morrison, who was a 194 pound chain smoker when they met in a Phoenix, Arizona gym in September 2006, later improved to appear to be fit and strong by February 2007, because he was taking his HIV medication. Lang cut ties with the Morrison camp because he suspected the Morrison camp was committing fraud, by either falsifying medical documents or doctoring blood tests. Lang further alleged the test results submitted by the Morrison camp in West Virginia (before Morrison’s bout there was approved) were either doctored or the documents were falsified. Morrison responded he fired Lang when he realized Lang was not a lawyer in Arizona. Lang countered he was an international lawyer who practiced discrimination law, and said Morrison knew he was not licensed in the state of Arizona when they agreed to work together-so he did not misrepresent himself.
Before Morrison’s Pay-Per-View bout in Mexico, ABC Boxing President Tim Lueckenhoff stated “The ABC is very concerned that Mr. Morrison is being allowed to participate in a boxing match. We will encourage the Mexican Boxing Commission overseeing the match, as well as Top Rank, to present Mr. Morrison for a supervised blood draw.”
Promoter Bob Arum stated “I wouldn’t have allowed it (Morrison’s fight in Mexico), but I didn’t know anything about it.” Arum said the fight was arranged while he was on vacation.
An online site, celebrity plastic surgery pics, posted a photo and story of Morrison with the claim (unverified) Morrison had breast augmentation surgery, stating “Those things are implants, no doubt about it. It looks like he’s made of plastic.” Their story appears here http://celebrityplasticsurgerypics.blogspot.com/2013/04/tommy-morrison-plastic-surgery-before.html
Morrison’s intended third comeback bout in Montreal, Canada, on February 25, 2011, was cancelled. Morrison was subsequently jailed in Kansas for felony possession of marijuana and hallucinogenic drugs after two previous convictions (a felony), and misdemeanor possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia, stemming from an incident at the Kansas Turnpike Service Area four miles north of Emporia, Kansas on February 17, 2011. At the time, Morrison was extradited from Tennessee to Kansas. Morrison’s previous conviction stemmed from a 2005 South Dakota drug arrest. His financial affidavit at the time stated he was married, and had no savings or property. The criminal report at the time stated Morrison had been convicted numerous times of alcohol, drug and weapons crimes, and spent 14 months in an Arkansas prison.
The charges against Morrison were dropped when Kansas highway patrolman Beau Wallace was killed on May 26, 2011, in a motorcycle accident. Wallace was killed on U.S. Highway 50 when 17 year old Gumaro Reyes pulled his 1998 Dodge Durango into an intersection from a stop sign, and his vehicle was struck by Wallace’s motorcycle on the Dodge Durango’s passenger side. Wallace was dead at the scene. The Lyon County’s Attorney’s Office staff dropped all charges against Morrison in Lyon County District Court because Wallace was the sole trooper involved in Morrison’s arrest, stating the case could not go on without the trooper’s testimony.
In his November 2011 (last known) press release, Morrison stated he was excited about 2012, and he believed he would once against become the heavyweight champion of the world, and would love to fight Wladimir Klitschko. He thanked his loyal fans for their continued friendship and support, and wished everybody a Happy Thanksgiving.
A Tommy Morrison website has reappeared at http://tommymorrison.relayout.com/gs.php Morrison’s website refers to private lessons in his Wichita TCB Gym, his availability as a guest speaker and his working on his autobiography. His ‘Foundation’ link is dead, as is a link at the top of the page to a ‘Buy Pay-Per-View Fight November 10, 2010’. Another dead link appearing at the bottom of the homepage is ‘www.TommyTheDukeMorrison.com’. On the links page, a link ‘http://cotaforkyleh.com/image/tid/40 for a boy needing a bone transplant named Kyle Hicks, which no longer works. However it appears Hicks, who Morrison once did a charity fundraiser for, got the bone marrow transplant he needed in 2011 and as of 2012, was recovering http://www.kake.com/home/headlines/157858625.html A website link to Zazzle.com still sells two types of Tommy Morrison posters and tee-shirts.
There are Tommy ‘The Duke’ Morrison (2,197 likes) and Tommy ‘Gunn’ Morrison (4,761 likes) Facebook pages. The few comments ask ‘Where is Tommy?’ One fan, Greg Wilson, claimed on June 27, 2013, on Facebook, that Morrison had died and was buried in a grave in Tennessee. Another fan, Luis Cruz, responded, stating Morrison was in fact still alive, but would not be writing on Facebook or appearing in pictures anymore, so I guess for fans he might as well be dead, but he is sick (so) true fans should just pray for Tommy.
Morrison gives a solid appearance on Maury Povich in 1996. His subsequent arrests were reported above as various police reports documented them in different jurisdictions. Charitable boxing organizations Ring 8 and Ring 10, located in New York State, reach out to fighters in need anywhere. Any fighter or former fighter in need of financial assistance for medical or other reasons can contact them for help, which Morrison could still do. Former world middleweight champion Gerald McClellan is assisted ongoing by Ring 10 today. The late former world heavyweight champion smoking Joe Frazier attended a benefit dinner which helped him financially-given by Ring 8 shortly before he passed away.
The article presented above presents facts regarding Tommy ‘The Duke’ Morrison as they occurred, and does not represent an opinion of any kind. It clearly notes Tommy Morrison today denies he is HIV positive in the opening paragraph. Morrison still maintains that position. Real Combat Media would be open to a telephone interview with Tommy Morrison if he wishes to respond to the facts presented. Morrison’s statements in his press conferences and on Maury Povich, and his subsequent arrests, are in the public record.