Born: January 2, 1969; Died: September 1, 2013.
Tommy Morrison, who has died aged 44, was a former world heavyweight champion who was widely known for his power-punching style and a charismatic smile. He also latterly found cinematic fame with a role in the Rocky V movie.
He won 29 consecutive bouts after turning professional in 1988. With 48 career wins, and 42 knockouts, he was beaten only by Lennox Lewis, Ray Mercer in a brutal 1991 encounter, and Michael Bentt. His career peak was a victory over George Foreman in 1993 to take the World Boxing Organisation title.
William Wordsworth's famous dictum "the child is father to the man'' was never more true than in the case of Tommy David Morrison. The blond Irish-American was raised in a dysfunctional family in Oklahoma and went on to have an equally turbulent adult life both in and outside the ring.
With a mother accused of murder, a father who was frequently drunk and abusive and a brother who served 15 years in prison for rape, it was little wonder the adolescent Morrison entered the so-called fight-to-the finish Toughman contests when he was just 13. Fighting adults, he claimed to have won all but one of 15 contests on that brutal and unregulated circuit.
As a device to launch his career as a boxer, he claimed to be related to American screen icon John Wayne, but that claim was taken a great deal less seriously than his subsequent amateur career that saw him win the Most Outstanding Fighter of the Tournament in the 1988 Olympic trials for the Seoul-based games held that year. It took the eventual winner of the heavyweight gold medal at Seoul, fellow American Ray Mercer, to eliminate Morrison from Olympic contention.
In 1989 Morrison's run of 19 unbeaten bouts so impressed Hollywood boxing film icon Sylvester Stallone that he cast Morrison as the treacherous Tommy Gunn, with whom Stallone improbably has a climatic street fight which formed part of the film's dénouement.
But a combination of the recurring pattern of Morrison's chaotic and dysfunctional lifestyle and mediocre reviews of the fifth Rocky movie precluded any successful subsequent screen acting career.
Similarly, Morrison's first attempt at becoming the first Caucasian since Sweden's Ingemar Johanssen in 1959 to win a version of the world heavyweight title foundered when former amateur nemesis Mercer stopped him in 1991 in the fifth round of their New Jersey title clash.
Yet Morrison proved that, despite his penchant for self-destructing in his personal life, nobody could deny his guts inside the ropes. Witness his epic scrap with Joe Hipp, when despite suffering a broken jaw and broken hand early in the clash, he still battled back heroically to beat Hipp in the ninth round. It was form that led to Morrison finally winning the WBO heavyweight crown in 1993 when he eschewed his usual wild, brawling, style to calmly outbox former world champion and fellow big puncher, Foreman, over 12 rounds.
Nevertheless, farce and anti-climax were never far away. In his first title defence, when his scheduled world heavyweight title challenger, Mike Williams, pulled out at the last moment, the promoter farcically selected a member of the audience, Tim Tomashek, as a substitute. It was the first and only time a ringsider plucked from the audience has contested a world heavyweight title joust. Inevitably, Morrison triumphed by a fourth-round stoppage in this farcical Kansas City contest from which the deeply embarrassed WBO subsequently disassociated themselves.
Nonetheless, the holder of the most widely recognised version of the world heavyweight crown, Britain's Lennox Lewis and his team, opened up the prospect of Morrison sharing a multimillion-dollar purse by fighting Lewis in a unification bout. But given Morrison's dissolute and chaotic, drug, booze and women-filled lifestyle, it was not really the major shock the media claimed it to be at the time, when Morrison sensationally lost his WBO crown - and the chance to fight Lewis, by being knocked out by the almost unknown Michael Bennt. Unheralded former Londoner Bennt destroyed Morrison in a single round in 1994.
The following year, Morrison was regarded as washed up as a mainline contender but he confounded critics by climbing off the canvas and halting the formidable Canadian Razor Ruddock inside the distance in Kansas City. As a reward, he at last got to challenge Lewis for his crown but it proved a step too far for the Oklahoman, who was battered and stopped in round six.
Thereafter, Morrison's lifestyle finally caught up with him as he was diagnosed HIV positive - a personal catastrophe which he attributed to his serial promiscuity during his boxing career.
Although he would later dispute the veracity of the 1996 HIV tests, his career was virtually over, despite him engaging in several subsequent, meaningless, bouts. When he died aged 44 in an Omaha, Nebraska, hospital on September 1st, he missed, by one day, passing away on the 44th anniversary of the death of his Italian-American predecessor as world heavyweight champion, Rocky Marciano. Both these holders of boxing's ultimate prize are the youngest holders of the world heavyweight title to die since the championship's inception in September 1892.
He is survived by his wife Trisha, whom he married in 2011.
We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules, which are available here.
Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.