Tommy Morrison Dies: Ex-heavyweight Champion Dead At 44; How Did He Die?

Tommy Morrison
Former heavyweight champion Tommy Morrison died late Sunday. His cause of death has not been announced. Morrison was diagnosed with HIV in 1996. Reuters

Tommy Morrison, ex-heavyweight champion, died late Sunday night at a hospital in Omaha, Neb. He died with his wife beside him at approximately 11:45 p.m., his promoter Tony Holden said. Morrison's boxing career was unfortunately truncated when he was disagnosed with HIV in 1996. Morrison went on to deny the claims for several years, even questioning the existence of the virus. Holden refused to comment Monday night when questioned about Morrison's cause of death, claiming he was unsure of the details. "I don't know what the official cause of death at the hospital will be," he said. "You prepare for things like this, and still you feel like you got hit by a truck when you hear the news."

Morrison started gaining traction in his career in 1993 when he topped George Foreman to win the heavyweight title right in the middle of what looked like Foreman's big comeback. Morrison won his first 28 professional matches, with the defeat of Foreman in the summer launching him into huge success. In 1996, however, the state of Nevada suspended his license following his HIV diagnosis. He attributed his "permissive, fast and reckless lifestyle" as the reason he would never fight again when he announced his retirement from the sport.

Though he found noteriety in 1993, it was also the beginning of a dark time. That was the same year he plead guilty to assaulting a college student. Since then, he had a few encounters with the law, including multiple DUI charges. He was sentenced to two years in prison for DUI-related charges, to which another year was added in 2002 for violation of parole. After his release, he announced that he wanted to return to fighting and that the HIV tests resulted in false positives. He passed medical tests in Arizona and, with the support of Nevada, returned to the sport. He only fought twice more, once in West Virginia and another in Mexico. He closed out his career with a record of 48-3-1 and 42 knockouts.

Morrison made a brief showing in the movies as well when he starred as Tommy Gunn in the 1990 movie "Rocky V." Morrison's character was a rookie fighter who had to be trained by the famed Rocky, played by Sylvester Stallone. Gunn ends up winning the heavyweight championship. He must later fight his mentor Rocky, and goes on to fail that challenge.

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