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Chitsaz Duke

The Iranian Assassin: A Boxing Friend Remembers Tommy Morrison

By Robert Brizel, Head RCM Boxing Correspondent

At age 56, Iran-American Hassan Chitsaz is the oldest world ranked active heavyweight today. Known as ‘The Iranian Assassin’, Chitsaz, a native of Los Angeles, California, has a professional record of 26-1, with 26 knockouts. Chitsaz remembered his friend, the late Tommy Morrison, in an exclusive Real Combat Media interview.

Chitsaz fought two professional bouts in Sinaloa, Mexico last month, stopping David Ramos in the fourth round, and Antonio Duarte in the first round.

Chitsaz and Morrison fought on the same ESPN televised boxing card at the Expo Square Pavilion in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on March 27, 1994, 20 years ago. Chitsaz, managed by the late world heavyweight champion Ken Norton, knocked out Don Goodwin in the first round in his second pro fight. Morrison, then 39-2, Jay, Oklahoma, stopped 14-0 Brian Scott of Kansas City, Missouri, in two rounds in the main event.

Real Combat Media: “Hassan, where did you first meet Tommy?”

The Iranian Assassin: “We met at the weigh-in the day before the card at the same place all of us fought, the Expo Square Pavilion. That was a great show, the crowd, they were screaming, they liked me more than him. The towel they gave me, I cut it up piece by piece and signed autographs for everybody. (I received a) Very strong welcome!”

Real Combat Media: “You were the opening four rounder on Tommy’s card, so you should have fought first on ESPN of the seven bouts fought.”

The Iranian Assassin: “Exactly. I was the first one who won by kayo that night, by knockout. That was me, because Johnny Tapia fought behind me (later). My bout was for four rounds, and it ended the first round.”

Real Combat Media: “What did you say to Tommy at the weigh-in?”

The Iranian Assassin: “I just walked to him and shook his hand. He said ‘How you doing, how’s it going?’ Tommy spoke with an accent, he wished me good luck tomorrow.”

Real Combat Media: “What was Tommy’s reaction after you scored a knockout on the opening bout on his card?”

The Iranian Assassin: “After I fought, he came to me in my dressing room and he congratulated me. He said ‘Hey, there’s something g special about you, I met you yesterday, and you made the show (tonight) crazy.’ Then Tommy told me ‘You are gifted. You are the people’s champion. People respond to you very quickly’ because that was his show, and he was very pleased at what happened. He said ‘You made everybody happy tonight, excited, it was good to have you here tonight’ and I said thank you so much, it’s my pleasure, and it’s an honor for me to be here.”

Real Combat Media: “Then Tommy went to his dressing room to get ready for his fight. Did you see him there before he fought on ESPN?”

The Iranian Assassin: “Yes. He was working (with a trainer) with his pads to be ready to fight. I don’t know who the trainer was, I just paid attention to Tommy. He was just doing his own thing. He was very serious.”

Real Combat Media: “When Tommy’s fight took place, where were you?”

The Iranian Assassin: “I was at ringside sitting with Johnny Tapia. We watched as Tommy’s opponent, Brian Scott, kept running away from Tommy. Tommy messed around with Scott. Tommy was chasing Scott, and Scott finally got tired of it (running around the ring for his life) so he walked away. Tommy kept hitting him with left hands and right hands. Tommy kept changing his jab hands, and Scott got frustrated so hequit. The crowd went ‘Boo!’ Scott wanted to get away from Tommy because he was upset. Tommy beat the shit out of him!”

Real Combat Media: What happened after the card?”

The Iranian Assassin: “After the card was over, we (Tommy, Johnny Tapia and me) went to the Double Tree Hotel Restaurant next to Expo Square Pavilion. Tommy ran with a bunch of people, different people, his friends, including two guys wearing suits. He came over to the table where I was sitting with my friend Johnny Tapia (he’s dead now, he was my friend) and Tommy shook our hands, and he said ‘I had a great time. That was a great show!’ and he left.”

Real Combat Media: “When did you see Tommy again?”

The Iranian Assassin: “We met up again 14 years later in 2008 at the World Boxing Hall of Fame Banquet of Champions dinner held at the Marriott Hotel in Century City (near Los Angeles) by the airport. Tommy got an award at the dinner.”

Real Combat Media: “How was Tommy when you saw him? Did he recognize you?”

The Iranian Assassin: “No. We were sitting signing autographs at a show the first day. Everybody had (boxers and luminaries sat at) booths. He was friendly but quiet. Then when I showed him our picture together, I said do you remember this man? Tommy said “Wow! Long time! That’s a long time ago. You still doing it?’ I said fighting? Yes sir! Tommy said “It’s an honor to see you again. You are still doing it, you crazy man!’ and then the next day we went to the show.”

Real Combat Media: “You remember the first event so well.”

The Iranian Assassin: “That time was when I won my first championship belt, the WBA
Fedecaribe heavyweight belt. WBA President Gilberto Mendoza and his son Jesus saluted me. Tommy saw the belt at my table. Tommy was shocked I was still fighting. He asked ‘You are still fighting you old man. How old are you?’ I said ‘I’m a pretty old man’. Tommy said ‘you look pretty good for you age’. Tommy had a girl sitting with him.”

Real Combat Media: “There was a dinner the next day?”

The Iranian Assassin: “At the dinner, there was a stage. It was a big place. Tommy got an award, a plaque from the World Boxing Hall of Fame. Tommy got up and said a few things. I was an official with the World Boxing Hall of Fame at that time, so I was moving around helping the people. I was nominated as their ambassador for that night, so I was going from table to table, because I was the only member of the board of directors who was still fighting, and they made me the ambassador.”

Real Combat Media: “How did you feel when Tommy died?”

The Iranian Assassin: “I felt really bad because he was a great fighter, and a great champion. Tommy was very impressed I was still fighting. At the dinner, he slapped me on the back and said ‘Don’t quit. You have it Hassan. I can feel it. Don’t stop it. Some people are born with the gift. Use it.”

Real Combat Media: Do you think of Tommy at all when you prepare for your fights?”

The Iranian Assassin: “Sometimes I do. Truth is Tommy was like an angel who came around and told me all these good things, sent me a message, and then left.”

Real Combat Media: “At what point do you think Tommy ran into emotional roadblocks?”

The Iranian Assassin: “I think Tommy’s problem, what happened to him, is when his state of health became in question, he lost a lot of confidence in himself, and it damaged him big time emotionally. It hurt him most (as to) what other people thought of him. By seeing me still doing it (boxing), he wished he was me doing it. I could see it in his eyes. He was very proud of me, and he saw all the people in the crowd liked me, and saluted me, when I was recognized at the dinner as the boxing ambassador. Tommy told me ‘Age is a number. If you believe it, you achieve it, and sometimes in life you cannot shut people mouths good or bad. You can shut doors but not shut people’s mouths, so don’t stop, Keep doing what you are doing, Hassan’.”

Real Combat Media: “What happened to Tommy Morrison’s fighting heart?”

The Iranian Assassin: “Tommy had a passion to fight-for boxing. His health situation hurt him the most because (in the end) he couldn’t continue boxing, (so) he couldn’t box anymore and achieve his dream of being a world champion. His other dream of fighting Mike Tyson would have been a dream come true. Tommy would have given it his best, win or lose, it didn’t matter, I think that his biggest dream was to fight Tyson, because Tyson was in his prime at that time. Tommy Morrison versus Iron Mike Tyson would have sold out the pay-per-view worldwide. That (not having the opportunity to fight Mike Tyson) hurt Tommy the most. He wanted to fight Tyson,his greatest wish, and it did not go through. That’s all. I always want the best for everybody, that’s the way I am. I would have very much liked to have seen Tommy versus Tyson.”

Real Combat Media: “Morrison, as a writer, explored the meaning of his life, and life itself, in his final years.”

The Iranian Assassin: “I think Tommy Morrison is a great story. (But) I think the real story was better when he was alive, because you talk about it when you are doing it. After you die, people do not much care about what happened. “

Real Combat Media: “What keeps you boxing at age 56?”

The Iranian Assassin: “The greatest feeling in life is when people tell you ‘you cannot do something’ and then you do it and prove them wrong. That’s what the great feeling in life is, when people discriminate against you and put you down, you can’t do this and do that, you overcome that position, and you win. Regardless of your nationality, or the color of your skin, just go do it. Actions speak for themselves.”

Real Combat Media: “What is the meaning of life to a boxer who has looked within?”

We’re not here to explain ourselves, we’re here to show ourselves. I want inspire others to achieve their goals, that’s why I do this (am still a boxer). I had stopped boxing. 14 years after I met Tommy Morrison in 1994, I went back into the ring at age 50 in 2008, and that’s the time I met Tommy (again) in 2008, and that’s crazy. Wow. I’ve fought 24 times since 2008. Wow. I inspired the hall of fame directors. When I came from Iran to America, people discriminated against me. I stood strong and I did it all. That’s what people want to see, that’s what people want to hear-the true story of people’s lives. I changed a lot of people’s lives, young and old. You have to make sacrifices, and you have to pay your dues in life. Then, you enjoy.”

Real Combat Media: “You are an active experienced heavyweight boxer. Call it. Where did Tommy Morrison go wrong?”

The Iranian Assassin: “We are all born with a gift. People don’t always see it. You have to tell them. Tommy Morrison had a gift, but he let that gift get into his head big time. He did not used it wisely. A lot of people were jealous of him because he was white. Tommy was looked at like the next great white hope. Whites didn’t have anybody for a long time. (Gerry) Cooney had no personality. Boxing is like any other sport. You have to have personality, and you have to have respect for the sport. When you are respected, people respect you back. It’s not about you. You have to be a role model to yourself first, then become a role model to others, speaking and preaching. You have to be an example. You become an example people follow, and people respect you for what you’ve done. “

Real Combat Media: “Was Tommy Morrison a boxing cowboy on the wrong trail?”

The Iranian Assassin: “Tommy was John Wayne’s nephew. He did a movie-Rocky V-and he had a lot going for him. Tommy got too close to the wrong people. You gotta be humble about things in life. Life is a gift. You cannot abuse it. You’ve gotta give life respect, and you’ve got to be thankful.”

Real Combat Media note: In Tommy’s new book, ‘Tommy 1996-2006 My Darkest Years’, Tommy quotes Psalms Chapter 25, one verse of which states ‘Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions, according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness sake, O Lord.’










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