Tommy's finest performance
Tommy Morrison burst onto the professional boxing scene in 1988. Following a 1st round knockout of Charles Hostetetter, October 26th, 1989, his record stood at 19-0-0, 17 knockouts. Only 3 opponents had survived the 2nd round. Sylvester Stallone and Rocky V secured Morrison a national fame platform. An October 18th, 1991, 5th round knockout loss at the hands of undefeated Ray Mercer temporarily derailed any title quest. Morrison won his next 8 bouts which secured him the opportunity to fight former Heavyweight Champion, George Foreman, 20 years his senior, for the vacant WBO title.
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ME: “What could you tell me about your most famous fight, the June 7th, 1993, WBO title bout versus George Foreman?”
MORRISON: “What people don’t understand about that fight is that I had to change my entire style in 8 weeks. By the time that I faced Foreman I was in perfect shape. I just dominated him and I was pleased.”
ME: “You altered your entire pugilist approach. You fought more defensively, a willingness to back step, and obviously prepared yourself for a longer bout. Did you alter your physical training?”
MORRISON: “I have a great story about that. Because the guy who gave me the advice that beat Foreman was Foreman himself. I spoke to him and asked how he was able to fight longer bouts now that he was older. The guy was fighting 4-5 rounds when he was younger and now was fighting 8-10 rounds. Foreman told me to run more, not to wear myself out, but at a steady pace. Foreman told me he did this and it would help my endurance. So that’s what I did. I ran every Friday and stayed within my limits as Foreman suggested and then beat him with his advice. Foreman told me it was important to pace myself, so I did.”
ME: “How did you mentally prepare yourself against Foreman?”
MORRISON: “Ordinarily, I will have a stack of tapes on a fighter and I watch them. But with Foreman, I only watched two over and over. I studied his losses against (Muhammad) Ali and (Jimmy) Young. I saw how they moved against him and stayed away. I saw that that’s how you beat someone like Foreman, to stay away and pace yourself. In between rounds, you only get, oh, 50 seconds to rest. I took advantage of every opportunity to save my energy. Foreman felt that I would stand up to him and fight. He would never have taken that fight if he thought otherwise. His people wouldn’t have let him. But when I saw how Ali and Young beat him, then I decided to fight him the same way. Foreman tried to cut off the ring against me and couldn’t. That’s when I knew that I had him.”
ME: “At the time you battled Foreman, aged 44, you were facing the hardest puncher in boxing history. Foreman has admitted to being afraid against certain opponents, Frazier and Norton (both of whom he knocked out within 2 rounds). Did you feel fear confronting Foreman?”
MORRISON: “I had no fear. I knew that I was facing a legend and I respected that…Foreman’s a tough guy but I boxed his socks off.”
ME: “Could you describe what it feels like to be hit by the hardest puncher in boxing history?”
MORRISON: “People ask me that question all the time. I probably get asked that question more than any other. What’s it like to be hit by Foreman? Well, my goal was to not find out and not get hit. (We both laugh) “He was not the hardest hitter that I faced. His punches are slow and you can see them coming. It’s hard to explain, but in the ring, I see his punches like slow motion. Because I see it coming, it gives me the opportunity to brace myself, so that’s what I did as it lessens the impact. Speed generates power and he had no speed.”
ME: “I won’t call Foreman a cheat, but he landed several low blows. He was warned repeatedly and was eventually penalized with a 10th round point deduction. An 8th round low blow caused the bout to be temporarily halted so that you could recover.”
MORRISON: “Foreman did land low blows but I don’t hold that against him. That’s boxing and he’s a boxer. They say that Foreman’s a Minister and shit, but when he steps into that ring he’s a fighter like anyone else. They act like he’s purer or something like that than the rest of us. Foreman’s there to fight and to hurt someone like anyone else. I understand that. Shit, it’s boxing.”
ME: “Did the low blows affect your strategy or your ability to win the bout?”
MORRISON: “No, but it affected my sex life for about a week. (we both laugh) “That’s about it. Foreman became desperate as he knew that he was losing. So that’s what that was about.”
ME: “You had never gone to the 10th round in a professional bout. How did you feel as you stepped out for rounds 10, 11, 12?”
MORRISON: “I’ll tell you about the 12th round. I knew that I had Foreman beat and that there was no way he could win. I could have coasted, but that wouldn’t have been me. Things got a little hairy. I may have a felt a little overwhelmed. But I hung in there and whipped his ass. This was a legend, and beating a legend was a good feeling. I felt proud.”
ME: “Foreman displayed good sportsmanship after the expected results announced his defeat. He approached you and said something. I know you must have been excited, but do you remember his congratulatory words?”
MORRISON: “He told me that I was the next Great White Hope. (laughs) “Foreman told me to keep my nose to the grindstone. Keep to good habits. He basically told me not to blow this opportunity.”
In the midst of the most exciting moment of his professional career, these Foreman words, from someone who was once deemed invincible until Muhammad Ali & Rope-A-Dope, proved sadly prophetic. Four months following the bout, a 1st round Morrison knockout loss at the hands of Michael Bentt derailed an $8-million payday with Lennox Lewis. Meanwhile, Foreman would go on to shock the world with a 10th round compact right to the chin of 28 year old Michael Moorer to reclaim the Heavyweight Championship on November 5, 1994.
ME: “You have no natural rival like most pugilists. So Foreman continues to stand out. When was the last time that you saw him?”
MORRISON: “We hooked up at a fight and benefit about a year ago for charity. We exchanged words. He was cordial. We are not buddies or anything like that.”
ME: “Foreman is an openly religious person. Do you consider yourself spiritual?”
MORRISON: “I’m a spiritual person. I go to church regularly. I guess that I made a decision, oh, maybe 11 years ago, back when I was in trouble to turn things around. I was in prison, in solitary confinement, so I did some thinking while I was there and decided to change.”
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As requested by Morrison, I have read published papers and listened to lectures by French scientist, Luc Antoine Montagnier. The gist of Montagnier’s verbal jabs, aimed at wealthy charitable foundations, particularly Bill Gates, is that America is spreading the HIV virus in Africa by its insistence that ‘science’ is about raising and spending money on expensive drugs. Montagnier is insistent that the dominant American philosophy is neither science or even helpful: Hygiene measures and water are important. Clean water is key… It is not always necessary to spend and raise money as so many seem to think… People are overly preoccupied by drugs and vaccine… There are many ways to decrease the transmission. Just by the simple measures of nutrition, giving anti-oxidants, proper anti-oxidants… We can be exposed to HIV many times without being chronically infected. Our immune system will get rid of the virus within a few weeks, if you have a good immune system. Tommy Morrison tested HIV-positive in 1996 and disputes those results today.
ME: “Why do so many people not believe your initial HIV-positive test result was inaccurate?”
MORRISON: “Because I didn’t run to Las Vegas and take the test again when they wanted. Fuck Vegas! There’s a lot of politics going on, and that’s what people don’t understand. Yeah, I could take the HIV test again, and it will come out negative, but why should I jump because Vegas tells me to jump?”
ME: “Do you take any sort of HIV medication today?”
MORRISON: “No, no, no. I took that AZT shit when I was in prison. All it did was make me sick. I was throwing up all the time. I had diarrhea so I was going to the can and up and down all night long.”
ME: “You felt the medication was only making you sicker?”
MORRISON: “It does. That is some nasty shit. I never felt sick until I started taking that shit.”
ME: “What is your current weight?”
MORRISON: “Right now I weigh 222 pounds.”
ME: “That was your prime fighting weight.”
MORRISON: “That’s right. And I feel healthy and I’m in great shape.”
ME: “What did you want to tell me about HIV and false-positive results?”
MORRISON: “That it happens all the time. I am in a documentary called House of Numbers and that’s what it is all about. Many people have been falsely diagnosed as positive.”
ME: “What else did you want people to know about HIV based on your perspective?”
MORRISON: “That it’s all a goddamned conspiracy and lie. HIV has never killed anybody, and that’s what people need to know. You can be exposed 100,000 times to HIV and not be infected.”
ME: “Why did you believe that the initial HIV-positive diagnosis was accurate?”
MORRISON: “Well, it is no secret. I’ve told lots of people. It’s because of needles. I’ve admitted before that I used them to inject steroids.”
ME: “If a boxer were to be diagnosed as HIV-positive, should they be banned from fighting professionally?”
MORRISON: “No, I don’t think an HIV-positive boxer should be banned from the ring. All you are doing is being exposed to anti-bodies. Nobody is going to die because they are exposed to anti-bodies. We are all exposed to HIV every day only nobody knows it because they don’t become ill. The scientific research is primitive and still in its infancy. Truth and scientific facts are what the public deserves and I’m not sure they are always getting the truth.”
ME: “So I could have been HIV-positive or the person reading this, but we never knew it because our bodies cured it without our feeling ill?”
MORRISON: “Yes. That’s what I am saying.”
ME: “I only want to clarify. So your refusal to take another test is because you believe Las Vegas has treated you unfairly or because you do not believe in the scientific accuracy or the American scientific interpretation of blood results?”
MORRISON: “I’ll take another test. I just won’t do it for Vegas. They lost the results of the last one; the one that supposedly condemns me. I have asked to see the results and they won’t show them to me. I’ll take another test and it will come out negative. I just won’t do it for them.”
Francoise Barre-Sinoussi was the discoverer of what we now call the HIV virus strain. She was awarded the Nobel Prize, along with her boss, Luc Antoine, for her efforts. Barre-Sinoussi calls her 1983 HIV virus strain discovery, “A good thing,” as she believes it will continue to assist with detecting cancer or lupus or so many other immune related diseases. She currently works at Institut Pasteur (Paris). Their world leadership in this scientific field would likely be the most accurate source for information regarding this subject matter. Thus far, Institut Pasteur has not published an opinion regarding HIV & pugilism.
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I request spontaneous reflection on some of the professional pugilists that Morrison has fought.
ME: “James ‘Quick’ Tillis” (W – KO1 – 1991)
MORRISON: “That was still early in my career. I was up and coming. That was a scary fight for me. I knew that I was up against someone that could make me look silly in the ring. Fortunately, I caught him early with a punch and he never recovered.”
ME: “Pinklon Thomas.” (W – retired after 1 round – 1991)
MORRISON: “They all got in shape to fight me and this was a good example. Thomas came to fight me, because if he wins, that’s a big deal for him. Timing is everything in boxing. You have to suck up to the right promoter. That was his big chance to beat me, but I got to him instead.”
ME: “Yuri Vaulin.” (W – TKO5 – 1991)
MORRISON: “He was a helluva fighter. He’s a southpaw and I’m not used to fighting southpaws, though I have never lost to one. He was a better fighter than most people think. The winner was supposed to fight for the title against either Foreman or Holyfield. But it didn’t work out. I couldn’t take him out like I wanted. That was a tough fight.”
ME: “Ray Mercer.” (L – TKO5 – 1991)
MORRISON: “Oh Lord! (semi laugh) “My trainer took the blame for that one. He told me that I would take this guy out easily in 3 rounds and that’s what I trained for. If you watch the fight, I dominated Mercer for the first 4 rounds. I owned him. But by the end of the 4th round, I had shot my wad and there was nothing left. My trainer lost that one for me.”
ME: “Joe Hipp.” (W – TKO9 – 1992)
MORRISON: “Joe is a good guy and I like him. He is a tough guy with a lot of heart. My hand speed was just too much for him. But I broke my hands early on, and then he broke my jaw, or I would have taken him out earlier than I did. That was a good fight. It was a great spectator show. Joe may have been a puffed up pretender, but he gave it a great effort.”
ME: “Carl ‘The Truth’ Williams.” (W – TKO8 – 1993)
MORRISON: “Williams came to that fight in shape. They all came in top shape against me. It was important to their careers, better fights, better money if they could beat me.”
ME: “It was an exciting bout with mutual knockdowns.”
MORRISON: “It was a great fight. If you look at the history of heavyweight boxing it is the smaller guys who dominate and win Championships. It is because they have better leverage and hand speed. I enjoyed fighting the tall guys and Williams was a tall one. I just overpowered him that was all. He was a good fighter, but I was better.”
ME: “Michael Bentt.” (L – TKO1 – 1993)
MORRISON: (laughs) “I think if I fought him 100 times, I would beat him 100 times. That’s how much of a better fighter I am compared to him. Unfortunately, I walked into a punch and he put me down. I tried to get up and fight him – that may have been a mistake – and by the 3rd time that he put me down it was over.”
ME: “I gather that you wished you had been a bit more defensive after that 1st knockdown rather than step in front of him and continue fighting?”
MORRISON: “It’s a humbling experience. I was humbled by that fight. There was a huge crowd in Tulsa to come see me fight and I let them down. I learned from that fight. I hadn’t been exposed to being hurt. I wasn’t used to it. Now, I know better. I only lost 3 times in my career and those are the ones where I learned the most… Shit happens… Those losses helped me to grow.”
ME: “Brian Scott.” (W – TKO2 – 1994)
MORRISON: “Brian was not a bad fighter. He was confused a little in the ring. I had probably sparred with Brian a couple of hundred times so we knew each other well. But he was scared, a bit frightened. I could see the fear in his eyes. I made up my mind that I was going to beat him, but not hurt him. I didn’t want to hurt him. Brian’s a good guy. But you can’t show fear in the ring and he showed fear.”
ME: “Ross Purrity.” (Draw – 10 rounds – 1994)
MORRISON: (An unhappy, disgusted audible sigh) “It was not a good night. You know, you can’t be flawless every time. There were a couple fights – and only a couple fights –when I just wasn’t on my game and that was one of them.”
ME: “What was the other disappointing bout?”
MORRISON: “The other disappointing fight was against Lorenzo Canady. This was early in my career, in ’89. That was a 6th round decision and so disappointing. (Sylvester) Stallone and the film crew were there to see me knock this guy out. They were going to film the actual fight and then incorporate it into the movie (Rocky V). But it just wasn’t my night. I let everybody down. I felt so bad. I wanted to knock him out and couldn’t.”
ME: “Razor Ruddock.” (W – TKO6 – 1995)
MORRISON: “I had wanted that fight for a while. I wanted to give the good folks of Kansas City a legitimate celebration. I like offensive guys like me, guys who will stand there and fight.”
ME: “You both knocked each other down. There is plenty of offense for the YouTube crowd.”
MORRISON: “That’s right. It was a fantastic spectator fight for the people of Kansas City and that’s what I wanted. They deserved a great fight and that’s what they received. Ruddock was willing to fight me and I give him credit for that.”
ME: “Lennox Lewis.” (L – TKO6 – 1995)
MORRISON: “I wasn’t that impressed by Lewis. I thought that I would take him out in 3 rounds. Unfortunately, I took a punch to the right eye in the 1st round. I tried to avoid getting hit in the 2nd round. By the 3rd round, the eye was completely shut, and that’s what happened there. I was a sitting duck and he slowly picked me off.”
ME: “Lewis does not always train the same for every bout. He was prepared against you.”
MORRISON: “That’s what I am talking about and what I said earlier. They all prepared for me as if it was a Championship fight. It was a chance to take out the Cracker.” (slang: ‘White’ guy)
ME: “How do you set up for your famous left hook inside the ring?”
MORRISON: “I’m always willing to throw the left hook. I will give someone the uppercut, then counter with the hook. I need about 5 inches, and that’s all. Otherwise, I will go to the body a lot. These other fighters won’t go to the body. But I train for that left hook the same way that I train for anything. I work out hard when I train. A lot of other boxers won’t push themselves the way that I do. You’ve gotta want to push your body harder every day. I train hard. That’s what I do.”
ME: “Mark McGwire, the baseball star, recently admitted that he used steroids during the 1990′s. You have admitted your own usage. How common was steroid usage amongst Heavyweights during the 1990′s?”
MORRISON: “My opinion, and this is just my opinion, is that everybody was doing it. But I can’t prove that.”
ME: “We know that baseball players and track & field athletes commonly used steroids. It does not seem unreasonable to suspect that steroids was prevalent in boxing as well?”
MORRISON: “Absolutely, that’s right. People pay money to see us fight. That’s what we do. Some people stand on their morals. They act like they’re better than us or something. But they paid their money to see us fight. They didn’t care about steroids then. It is not just the athlete that has to take responsibility. Everybody was a part of it.”
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ME: “I know that your childhood was dysfunctional and difficult. Rather than dwell on the negative I would prefer something positive. I understand that your grandfather was a religious person and an important role model in your youth. Could you tell me something about him?”
MORRISON: “The last 5 generations of Morrison men were all fighters. The women were nurses. My grandfather was undefeated as a pro — 31 and 0 — and was set to fight Henry Armstrong. But he quit and became a preacher instead. I guess that he was my spiritual adviser. Someone that I respected. (pause – upset and emotional) “I didn’t come from the greatest family, you know? My family was a mess. I just didn’t want to be near home and so I stayed away. (pause, calms himself) “Both my grandfather and grandmother were wonderful people and I was lucky to have them.”
ME: “Could you tell me something about your scholastic life?”
MORRISON: “I was an honor student. I liked school. I enjoyed science and biology… But I was also a good athlete. I could really kick a football. I even thought I might be a professional punter. But they made at the time, oh, maybe $200,000 a year, and I felt that I could make more with boxing. It worked out in the end.”
ME: “You wanted me to ask about illegal drugs. What did you want to say?”
MORRISON: “Just that I am very anti street drugs. I used to do (crystal) meth, and I have been through that stuff. There was a dark side to my life. I wasn’t going anywhere. People were wondering if I would ever get my act together.”
ME: “What made you to stop crystal meth or other drugs?”
MORRISON: “It was prison. I had to go away and think about my life and all that I had been through. I had felt for a while that God was tugging on my arm. But I kept running away. God finally put me in a place where I could not run.”
ME: “So you are saying that spirituality cleansed you of illegal street drug usage?”
MORRISON: “That’s what did it for me. I thought that maybe God wanted me to talk about it. It’s a helluva story – my life – a real roller coaster ride. I thought that by telling the truth of that story, the bad with the good, it might ultimately do someone else some good.”
ME: “The theme of your website is redemption. That it is okay to get knocked down in life as long as you stand again. Is there something else that you would like people to know?”
MORRISON: “Just that I have a retreat, “The Tommy Morrison Foundation,” which allows kids with cancer two weeks at camp to enjoy themselves and forget about their problems. They can go swimming and hiking and fishing and be a kid again, rather than dealing with shit.”
ME: “A cancer diagnosis from a doctor must sound similar to an HIV-positive diagnosis. You have admitted that you handled your own 1996 diagnosis poorly, sort of surrendered in life and eventually wound up in prison. What would you say to a young person that receives a cancer diagnosis so that they do not repeat your mistake?”
MORRISON: “I would tell them, ‘Forget about it. Live your life!’ I think some of these parents almost want their kids to die and get it over with. It’s a difficult situation for the parents, too, and maybe the kids get put on the back burner as a result.”
ME: “So you are saying that kids with a cancer diagnosis almost have to take care of themselves?”
MORRISON: “You are damned right! These kids have to learn not to give up on themselves. Don’t just die because someone says you are going to die. Work on your mind and your physical body. Lots of these kids heal themselves, both physically and mentally, by believing in themselves and not someone else.”
ME: “I know that you will attend the camp and meet the kids. How will you work with them?”
MORRISON: “I will show them basic exercises; nothing too stressful. I just want to show them how to work the mind and body. Mostly, I’ll tell these kids – some of whom are told they only have 6 months to live – ‘Forget about it. Be a kid again and enjoy yourself’.”
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