Monday, September 2, 2013
Tommy "The Duke" Morrison Passes Away at 44: RIP To A Classic Heavyweight Warrior
Morrison's rise to fame from his harsh upbringing? Classic American dream stuff it was. That he was sensationalised with poor American racialist taste as a great white hope fighter? A classic controversial heavyweight boxing theme anywhere between Marciano and Klitschko. Considering Tommy's fair hair and skin allowed the concept to take root despite being half American Indian, it shows how much the tradition of boxing race-baiting is based on ignorance and stupidity (like race-baiting in general). Tommy's mother is half Otoe, half Ponca. You'll find even Wikipedia prefers to over look it at this time, listing The Duke only under the category of "American people of Scottish descent". Morrison's bizarre career end and post fight life? What can I say? What does it matter now? The years of rumours, incessant chatter about his failing health every few months and his legal troubles, his non-boxing combat career, his family dramas, controversial political and medical opinions, they're all things I've been getting fed steadily in my circle of friends. But forget the legendary partying that became less and less of a party or the strange quotes from Morrisson and everything else, save his boxing career.
What matters is that Tommy Morrisson was truly a classic heavyweight warrior. What was true, regardless of scandals and sensationalism is that Morrisson had one of the most vaunted left hooks the heavyweight division has ever seen and he loved to lay it all out on the line in a fight. He put on some of the most entertaining matches in one of the best heavyweight eras. He mixed it up with Lennox Lewis, Ray Mercer, Razor Ruddock, George Foreman and more. He fought through all manners of injury and became the kind of fan favourite that there aren't too many of anymore at heavyweight. He was, to me, perfectly described with a term that may have been coined by Jim Lampley when he used it on another fighter: A high class brawler. A man who knew how to box, but he usually applied it during real fights full of risky exchanges. He rarely seemed too interested in taking a win on points (80% knockout ratios don't happen across 50+ fights for no reason). That's why good fans, of all colours and creeds could appreciate him. They didn't have to be fans, nor did they have to be engaged in the race-baiting, but they would be watching.
You had to watch Tommy Morrison. He was must-see TV. I've also always heard that while he was healthy enough he always took time to converse with fans and that is something that I have always respected. When these guys give their time, time from their personal lives that they are NOT obligated to give, to share a special moment with the people who love their sport, that's what makes me appreciate them as much as their fighting.
What boggles my mind, as a long time fan, is that at 44, Morrison, having left the sport so young, it seems like he was around a lot longer than he was (so much action was delivered) and it seems like he's been gone a lot longer than he actually has been (almost like we've been through three eras since he's been gone). Tommy Morrison, age 44, Vitali Klitschko, 42, Tony Thompson, 41, Tomasz Adamek, Steve Cunningham and Wladimir Klitschko-36, 37 and 37. I can hardly believe the numbers when I think about it and that Morrison's peak was perhaps, what, 1993 or so? Can it be two decades since he beat George Foreman for the WBO heavyweight title? Morrison turned pro young, rose to fame young, lived very fast and burned out just as fast. Now, he's passed away at only 44?
Again, as a fan, I don't care about the controversies surrounding his death so much as a classic fighter from my youth dying, and doing it at this age. I've heard there was a lot of suffering over at least the past year (at the very least, all things considered) and the end of that is the only good thing I can focus on with the news. He's been relieved of that suffering. The important thing to me is that we remember this was one hell of a fighter to watch, which is what I think he'd have wanted us to remember. If there's peace to be found for him yet, rest in peace, Duke.
Work that bag,
Basement Gym Boxing
PS: Go and enjoy some of his many fights spread across the Internet. I will be doing just that.