Tommy “The Duke” Morrison died on Sunday night at the age of 44. The troubled boxer had been in declining health and spent the last days of his life in a Nebraska hospital.
The Arkansas born and Oklahoma raised athlete shot to fame in 1990 when Sylvester Stallone cast the rising boxing star in Rocky V. Morrison’s career reached its pinnacle in 1993 when he defeated George Foreman to become the World Boxing Organization champion.
In 1996, following a routine blood test in the run up to a boxing match, Morrison tested positive for HIV. His boxing license was suspended by the state of Nevada as a result. In a press conference after the suspension, Morrison blamed the HIV infection on a “permissive, fast and reckless lifestyle.”
Morrison’s life spiraled following the HIV suspension, culminating with a three year prison stint in 2000 for assault and drunk driving.
Upon his release, Morrison attempted to restart his boxing career with little success. He insisted his HIV diagnosis was a false positive, and after testing negative in subsequent blood tests, fought bouts in West Virginia and Mexico. The Nevada Boxing Commission stood by its ban and never reversed their decision. Experts are still divided over the veracity of Morrison’s claims that he was never HIV positive.
The official cause of Morrison’s death has not been disclosed. He is survived by his wife, Trisha.
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