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Boxing Interviews: Archives
A New Beginning: The Tommy Morrison Chronicles, Part III
Feb 4, 2004
Doghouse Boxing Special:
A New Beginning: The Tommy Morrison Chronicles, Part III
(Part I)(Part 2)
As previously stated, Tommy Morrison has led a pretty eventful life since retiring from boxing in 1996 at the age of 27. He got into a little trouble with the law on drug and weapons charges, which he explains below, and was imprisoned for over a year. Since his release in February 2001, he has walked the straight and narrow and has even fathered a healthy, HIV negative child, Tristin Duke Morrison, thanks to a doctor in Boston. Now living in the sleepy town of Sparta, Tennessee, Morrison is now experiencing and enjoying life as he never has before. As you will see from this interview, Tommy has big plans lined up for the future.
DB: Were there any fighters you enjoyed watching when you were growing up?
I was a big Sugar Ray Leonard fan. He was an extraordinary fighter, a very charismatic person and that’s what sells in this sport.
DB: When was it that you first realized that boxing was something that you might be able to do as a career?
I was like 25-0 before I ever really realized that boxing was what I wanted to do.
DB: What would you consider your greatest moment in the ring?
You know, I really don’t think anyone ever saw my greatest moment in the ring. I think they were about to see it, if I had fought Tyson that would have been it. Things were really starting to click for me, and it would have been perfect timing. I had a couple of warm-up fights set up before that, but of course then there was the HIV positive test. That would have been my last fight, win, lose or draw. A lot of people stick around too long, and I could have set a good example by getting out early.
DB: Your toughest fight?
Probably Ross Puritty, because I made it my toughest fight. The toughest fight I probably had to go through was Joe Hipp, because of all the injuries I had to overcome. But Ross Puritty was the strongest person I ever locked up. You get in there with someone, and you can feel their strength, and he was an animal.
DB: Who was the best all around fighter you ever fought?
That’s a good question. I can remember when I fought Yuri Vaulin, he beat the shit out of me for four rounds. My ankles and calves were cramping up on me, until the time I caught him with a body shot. I think he was very underrated. People always talk about Lennox Lewis, but I never thought Lewis was that good. I think I had the style to beat him and I had never been more confident for a fight in my life. Everything just fell apart, I got cut right off the bat, my eye swelled shut. For four rounds though, it seemed like Vaulin was the best. He was a southpaw, and they always make you look bad anyway.
DB: What did it feel like and what thoughts were going through your head during the prefight ringwalk?
That’s another good question. I’ve never been asked that before. It seems like it was always the same. Basically I was retracing my steps. You hear things out of the other camp, and I never wanted to leave any stone unturned. If they ran 5 miles, I wanted to run 6. If they go 10 rounds in sparring, I wanted to go 15. I always trained at a high level, no matter what I was doing. If I was sparring or hitting the bag, and my pulse rate wasn’t 180 at the end of the round, then it didn’t count. In my mind, as I walked to the ring, I was just retracing my steps. I didn’t sleep well if I didn’t feel properly trained. Going to the ring, I had tunnel vision, and when I got in the ring, it was like someone pulled away the curtain. Very few times in my career did I ever hear anything in the ring. I could hear the crowd when I hit someone, or when they hit me. You can feel the crowd, or at least I could, more so when you’re getting hit. It always seemed louder when I was getting hit. Also, even when I was fighting a guy smaller than me, he looked ten feet tall to me across the ring.
DB: What happened with the Mike Williams fight? Why did he pull out at the last minute?
It was a combination of things. I had him as a sparring partner, and he was a pretty decent one. He had some personal problems at the time, and we kind of had the feeling that he wouldn’t fight. He was scared too. He could hang in sparring with the 18 ounce gloves in sparring, but with the 10 ounce gloves in a fight I was going to bust him up. We had a backup plan though with Tim Tomashek. A lot of people, and the way the news had it, thought we just pulled some guy out of the crowd. But we already had him there in case Williams backed out. He was out there drinking a beer and someone went to him and said hey, “‘you’re up.”
DB: You were supposed to fight Herbie Hide for the WBO title you lost to Michael Bentt. Bentt lost it to Hide, but your fight with Hide didn’t happen. Why not?
That was a blessing for Herbie Hide. I watched his fights, and he was quick. He could run pretty good, but no one had ever pursued him the way I was going to pursue him. Sooner or later he was going to have to come down off his toes and I would have taken care of him after that. Bob Arum had a deal with a guy who convinced him that he had a lot of money. This guy was supposed to pay all the expenses, but we found out that he didn’t have it. The fight had only sold about 600 tickets about 6 hours before the show started, but the Chinese are big walk-up people, they like to buy tickets then. This guy who had the deal with Arum had no money, and Arum just didn’t want to take the gamble. So the fight was canceled just a few hours before the fight.
DB: What was it like to defeat Razor Ruddock in 1995 in a true war?
That was a great fight for me. What was really good about it is that it was in Kansas City. Being able to come back to Kansas City after the whole Mike Williams thing and put on a real fight was great. It was a great fight to watch. It was a good win, I redeemed myself in Kansas City, and I picked up another title as well.
DB: If the Ruddock fight had gone to the seventh round, would you have had anything left?
It would have been tough. I would have had to move around and take a couple of rounds off. I was in good enough shape where I could have done that. As opposed to Mercer, where I only trained for a hard four round fight. I just had no idea that Mercer could take that kind of punishment.
DB: Did you think Ruddock was going to get up when he went down hard in the sixth?
No. He was out until he hit the floor and that’s what woke him up.
DB: What was your reaction to the HIV positive result at the time, and have your feelings changed since?
My feelings haven’t really changed. All the things we’ve been told by our Government, I’ve read about and I’ve found it to be false. A lot of people believe that I’m still alive because I never bought into it. I’ve gotten too many confirmations from God and I know I’m on the right track.
DB: What led to your 14 month stay incarceration in 2000?
I moved back to Oklahoma, and previous to that I had never done any kind of drugs. I started hanging around this guy, and needed a security system put into my car and he picked up my car to install it. He had it for a couple of days, and I came to find out that he had been driving it around and selling drugs. When I picked up my car, I got pulled over. Immediately I started getting some bad treatment, and they found cocaine and some guns in the back of my car. My life changed that day. The media jumped on it, and beat me to death. Destroyed my reputation.
DB: Talk a little about your time in prison and how it changed you.
I was there for 14 months, 8 days, 6 hours and 46 minutes. It was a pivotal point in my life. At the time I couldn’t understand why it was happening. But now I realize that it got me out of a bad marriage. I had done a lot of bad stuff in my life that I never got caught for, so it was a reckoning, that’s how I justified being there even though I was there for something I didn’t know about. I was on a lockdown floor for crazy people. They had me in a cell for eight days, they wouldn’t let me take a shower for eight days before that. It was like a nursing home for young people. A lot of the other inmates there would love to have been there because they could get medication, but I couldn’t wait to get off that floor.
DB: You’ve had a recent addition to your family, with the birth of your son Tristin Duke Morrison. How did that happen and what’s that been like?
It’s been a blessing. I called Dawn, my wife, from prison one day, and she told me she’d been watching The Montell Williams show. They had a couple on where the guy was HIV positive and the wife was negative and they wanted to have children, but no one would help them. There was this one doctor out of Boston named Ann Keesling who did a procedure called sperm-washing which allowed couples where one was HIV positive could have an HIV negative child. It’s a controversial procedure but it’s been used in Europe for some time now and it’s foolproof. People don’t believe God is still in the miracle business, but he performs them every day.
DB: You’ve been busy for some time now writing your autobiography. What is the latest on that project?
We haven’t gotten a publisher yet, but I’m in no big hurry to finish it until I find a publisher. If the movie is made on my life, maybe that will help us find a publisher.
DB: I’ve heard that there may be a movie made based on your life. What’s going on with that?
Well, there’s a producer named Kirk Johnson who’s interested. That would be great because that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. So we’ve been shopping it around. It would get my name back out there.
DB: Do you ever think about coming back to boxing?
I thought about it for awhile, but the more I think about it I think ‘man, that’s over with.’ I miss the fighting, but I don’t miss the training.
DB: Name one fighter, if all barriers were removed and the fight could happen, that could bring you out of retirement?
James Toney. I just don’t like him. I don’t like his attitude.
DB: What do you think of the heavyweight division today as a whole?
I think it’s in the same shape as it was when Tyson came along in the mid 1980’s. That’s what is going to allow fighters like Joe Mesi to make a lot of money, because there’s just nobody there.
DB: You were labeled as a "Great White Hope," as is every white heavyweight from America who puts together a good winning streak. What do you think of the latest fighter to fit that description, Joe Mesi?
He’s got pretty sound boxing fundamentals, not great speed, but he hits hard. He’s been fighting a lot of stiffs, and now he is at the point where everyone wants to see him fight someone. The Barrett fight showed though that he could get off the canvas. He got cut three weeks before the fight, and had to go the rest of camp without any sparring, which I think is insane. The jury is still out on Mesi, but I hear he may fight Mike Tyson. Tyson is primed to be beaten, if Mesi doesn’t let him get into his head.
DB: You were promoted by Tony Holden, who now promotes Mesi. How did you get hooked up with him?
Tony used to produce a fishing show called Championship Fishing, which is big around Kansas City, and invited me to come on the show. We went out fishing for trout, and the show aired. Tony was the first person I really opened up to, and I told him how I was getting screwed by my co-manager at the time, John Brown. That’s when Tony got involved, and he’s a real honest guy. Tony got into promoting at that point, and he’s done well and he’s been doing it ever since.
DB: You were pretty good in your role as Tommy Gunn in the movie Rocky V. Would you be interested in getting back into acting?
There are two things in this world that I still want to do. One is skydiving, the other is acting. Acting is something that I know comes natural to me, and it’s the only thing I’ve ever done in my life, other than having sex, that I realized I really loved. Being able to do something for a living that you really have a passion for would be the ultimate. Julia Roberts said it best when she said, ‘I’m just an ordinary person with an extraordinary job.’
DB: You were also in an episode of the television sitcom Cybil. Would you consider a television series, or do you strictly want to act in movies?
I would just like to stick to the big screen.
DB: George Foreman is leaving his job as a commentator for HBO. Would you be interested in a job like that?
I did a couple of shows years ago, and I really believe that’s something I could be good at. I think I could bring a boxer's point of view forward in a very articulate manner.
DB: Bill Cayton co-managed you throughout most of your professional career. What was your reaction to the news of his death?
I heard earlier while I was in prison that he was in bad health and that it was just a matter of time, so the actual news of his death was no big surprise to me.
DB: If you could fight a boxer from any era in your prime, who would you fight?
I think an awesome fight would have been either against Floyd Patterson or Rocky Marciano. Floyd Patterson’s style I think was made for me. Rocky Marciano, only being 185 pounds…I just don’t think fighters back then could hang with fighters coming along today. Today they are just too much bigger, faster and stronger.
DB: Do you feel that you’ve been given the proper respect by fans and boxing experts for what you accomplished in the ring?
I think that will come later. In another twenty years, if we’re all still here, I think that’s when my skills will really be appreciated. People never really got to see my best.
For more information on Tommy Morrison, he invites you to visit his official fan site at www.teamtommy.com , or visit the home page for his Knockout AIDS Foundation at www.tommymorrison.org.