Tommy Morrison punches Donovan Ruddock at Municipal Auditorium on October 6, 1995.
Tommy Morrison defeats Donovan Ruddock at Municipal Auditorium on October 6, 1995.
I’ve only shot one boxing match in my 20 years as a professional photographer. It happened to be the heavyweight bout between Canadian champion Donovan “Razor” Ruddock and Kansas City’s Tommy “The Duke” Morrison at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Missouri on October 6, 1995.
I had met Morrison a few times when I worked as a staff photographer for the Independence (Missouri) Examiner in the mid-90’s. He was always nice to me. Once, I was invited to shoot photos of him during a conditioning session. Morrison held his hands over his head while his trainers delivered body blows to his exposed torso. I was so stunned by his physical toughness that I stopped shooting photos. Morrison was quite an imposing figure in and out of the ring.
Morrison started his professional boxing career in 1988. Sylvester Stallone watched one of Morrison’s bouts in 1989 and arranged a script reading for him. He cast Morrison in Rocky V as Tommy “The Machine” Gunn, a young protege of Stallone’s character, Rocky Balboa.
Morrison won the World Boxing Organization heavyweight title by defeating George Foreman on July 6, 1993. Morrison won three more fights before meeting former number one contender Donovan “Razor” Ruddock in Kansas City, Missouri on October 6, 1995. Morrison won by TKO.
Morrison was scheduled to fight Arthur Weathers in 1996, but the Nevada Athletics Commission informed Morrison that he had tested positive for HIV. Morrison held a news conference stating that he had contracted HIV because of his “permissive, fast and reckless lifestyle”.
After being suspended from boxing, Morrison battled several legal issues including DUI’s, assault, drugs and weapons charges, and a two-year prison sentence. Later, he claimed that HIV was a conspiracy, that he had never tested positive for the virus, and that doctors were “quacks.”
Tommy Morrison died from AIDS-related complications on September 1, 2013 at the age of 44.