Tommy Morrison talks about fighting, his faith and his future
By "Big Dog" Benny Henderson Jr. (December 29, 2004) For Part 1
After eight years of banging it out in the professional ranks of boxing with an impressive record of 46-3-1 (40), stopping eighteen opponents in the opening round, two heavyweight titles, classic wins over George Foreman, Razor Ruddock and Joe Hipp, and with a star role in Rocky V under his belt, Tommy 'The Duke' Morrison hadn’t even reached his prime and was only getting started when the twenty-seven year-old heavyweight sensation’s career would be brought to a sudden halt after testing positive for HIV in February of 1996. After one last bout in Japan/China that same year 'The Duke' would walk away from the sport that helped launch his star status and would never return. After eight years of being away from the sport and serving a stint in an Arkansas prison and for the most part out of the mainstream media, the soon to be thirty-six year-old former heavyweight champion has settled down comfortably in Tennessee and looks to the future with his new found exercising of faith and a positive outlook on life. Morrison was born a fighter and remains a fighter to this day, staying as healthy as he possibly can while living with the virus and for the most part seems to be winning the fight of his life. With a book and possibly a movie deal in the pipeline, 'The Duke' is set for a bright future. A sometimes tattered and glamorous past has paved way for the future. Now living his life in God’s will, Tommy has a new lease on life and looks to use his beliefs and knowledge of living with HIV to spread the word to others and hopefully help motivate and steer others into the right direction. But the fans and the hardcore 'Duke' followers can’t help but wonder what if Tommy was in the biz of fighting today? How would Morrison handle the current crop of champions? In the second and last installment of this two-part interview Doghouse Boxing conducted with the former KO artist, Tommy gives us his thoughts on the fight plans he would implement against today’s top fighters. He also discusses with candid detail his thoughts on living with HIV, his faith in God and what the future holds for him. Enjoy.
Tommy 'The Duke' Morrison
Benny Henderson Jr.: You tested positive for HIV in 1996 and retired from the sport. What was your first thought when you were told you were a carrier of the virus?
Tommy Morrison: For some reason it didn’t surprise me, I knew I was in a sport where it could be transmitted. I fought a guy in 1989 that died of AIDS and I found out about that about six months after I fought him. I went back and watched the fight and he bled all over me.
BH: You founded the KO AIDS Foundation, can you give us insight on the foundation and what you hope to accomplish with it?
TM: The foundation is still around but I just never was able to do a lot with it, I just need to get behind it and breathe some life into it and all that will come when I get on my feet. CL Jones will be helping me, and you, you are helping out. I was talking with BK the last few days about this website and I could sell all kinds of stuff on there. I might market my own clothing line or something, the doors open I can do that and take advantage of it.
BH: Well hey, will you do me a favor if you get your own clothing line Tommy?
TM: You bet.
BH: Make sure your clothing line fits fat people.
TM: [Laughs] Make sure it fits fats people, you got it.
BH: How has living with the disease changed your life and what is your outlook towards the future with the disease?
TM: Ah, it hasn’t changed my life at all. The only thing that has changed is that I have to take time out to take my medicine everyday. That’s really the only change but it has never kept me from doing what I have done before.
BH: So your outlook is good?
TM: Yeah, shoot yeah man. I just live life, everyday I am thankful for.
BH: You were on the Trinity Broadcast Network just recently and you stated to Carmen that the HIV virus isn’t detectable. Is that common for people with the virus for it not to show up after his it already been detected?
TM: Well they can’t find it in my system, they still say I have it and I’m still HIV positive but it is undetectable. But they tell me it is still in my system so basically I am like Magic Johnson. It is like cancer being in remission.
BH: You are a man of faith now, how has that impacted your life?
TM: I always have been but I just didn’t exercise it till recently. [Laughs]
BH: Well now that you are exercising it, how has that changed your life?
TM: It has changed my life tremendously, and also being able to have a partner and a friend that you live with exercising the same beliefs and being able to experience things together is pretty cool, I dig it.
BH: You have been away from boxing for about eight years and still seem to have a loyal fan base. What does it mean to you to still have the following after being absent from the sport for so long?
BH: What has been the hardest part of being away from the sport, I mean surely at times you must miss the crowds, the fights, the fans, the wins?
TM: I think I will always have a following in terms of boxing, there are always going to be people out there who are going to be my fans. Even people who never knew me are fans of mine because of the way I used to fight. I was exciting and I was fun to watch. I love the fans and I appreciate it but they will have to catch me on a different screen now.
BH: You still watch the sport of boxing so what is your take on today’s heavyweight champions. Let’s say if you were fighting today’s champs.
TM: Today’s champions? [Laughs]
BH: Let’s just say you were in the ring with the champions and titleholders of today, what would be your fight plan against the following fighters: Morrison versus WBC Champion Vitali Klitschko?
TM: I would basically go in there and stay on him. He’s a big guy so you just fight him on the inside. I’m not a big guy but I could fight him on the inside, I would approach it like the Ruddock fight, just go in there and chop him down. Stay on his body and he would bring them hands down. He is already straight up since he’s European anyway. Just come over the top, that is what Danny Williams should have been doing but he didn’t.
BH: Morrison versus IBF Champion Chris Byrd?
TM: Chris Byrd is somebody you just have to beat into the ropes, you have to back him into the ropes and just beat him until he falls down. He’s the guy that nobody wants to fight, he would be my hardest fight. I think I could overpower him but he would be my hardest one. You would have to just go in there and knock his ass out. You would have to get him into the ropes and try to out condition him, if you tried to box him he would out box you. He is smooth and very slick.
BH: Morrison Versus WBA Champion John Ruiz?
TM: John Ruiz? I think I would take that guy out probably in four rounds. He just couldn’t hold up.
BH: Morrison versus WBO Champion Lamon Brewster?
TM: He would be easy, I think. Do you?
BH: Ah, you guys are both sluggers so it would be a good fight to watch I think.
TM: Yeah, but I could out ball him.
BH: What does the future hopefully hold for you?
TM: To live my life according to God’s will you know, to be doing something I know he wants me to do, to get out there and make a difference. Just talk to a bunch of youth groups and high schools, that is what I want to do. I want to also make movies you know.
BH: Is there anything you would like to say to the fans or add in closing?
TM: When you think of me think of a real person. I’m just as real as they come, and thanks.
I would like to thank Sean Newman for his help on this interview and I would like to give a big shout out to Tommy Morrison for giving his thoughts, it was fun and greatly appreciated. For more information on Tommy Morrison and his KO AIDS Foundation, the only place where you can buy official autographed 'Duke' memorabilia, he would like to invite you to visit www.TommyMorrison.org
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