Tommy Morrison, Boxer Who Tested Positive For HIV, Dead At 44

The former Heavyweight Champion and star of Rocky V died in Nebraska of undisclosed causes. Morrison denied he was ever HIV positive in the final years of his life.

HIV infected heavyweight boxer and former WBO champion Tommy Morrison of the United States poses during a weigh-in in Tokyo in this November 2, 1996 file photo. Kimimasa Mayama / Reuters

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.

In this June 7, 1993 file photo, newly crowned WBO heavyweight champion Tommy Morrison receives his championship belt after defeating George Foreman in Las Vegas, Nev. Nick Ut, File / AP

The 1990 trailer for Rocky V, in which Morrison played Tommy Gunn.

The 1993 fight with Foreman that won Morrison his WBO belt.

Morrison discussing his positive HIV test in 1996 with Larry King.

Tommy Morrison denies his HIV status in a 2010 documentary.

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