Two noteworthy names in the Heavyweight division in the early 90s squared off with a famous knockout conclusion nearly 30 years ago. That’s when former Olympic Gold Medal heavyweight champ, “Merciless” Ray Mercer took on popular hard-punching Tommy “The Duke” Morrison for the WBO Heavyweight Championship.
Mercer had amassed a 17 – 0 career record with 12 Knockouts and had won the WBO Heavyweight Championship earlier that year with a 9th round knockout over Italian Francesco Damiani.
Morrison who was also undefeated at 28 – 0 with 23 KOs was probably better known for having starred as the up-and-coming fighter “Tommy Gun,” who was taken under the wing and launched to stardom by Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky V.” However, “Gunn” double-crossed Rocky and end up fighting him in the street at the end of the movie.
Back in the ring, Morrison had already displayed a menacing left hook and this fight was expected to have lots of fireworks. It did not disappoint.
In fact, Morrison was in control in the first three rounds scoring with combinations and left hooks to the body and Mercer seemed hard pressed to figure Morrison’s bruising straight-ahead style out.
However, early on in the fifth-round he clipped Morrison with a hard right hand near a corner and the ensuing barrage of punches had Morrison sprawling in the corner and along the ropes. He finally fell almost face first to the canvas after over 10 hard punches connected with the fight being immediately stopped.
Obviously Hall of Fame referee Tony Perez was slow to jump between the fighters, as Morrison clearly took two or maybe three unnecessary vicious punches along the ropes. New Jersey athletic commission head Larry Hazzard, who had been a former big-time referee in his day, is also seen jumping up on the ring apron trying to stop the fight, while Mercer is landing the final couple of blows on Morrison.
That fight set the stage for many other big bouts from Mercer, but he lost the WBO title his next time out against Hall of Famer Larry Holmes on a 12-round decision. Later in his career Mercer would step through the ropes with the likes of Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield, as well as Wladimir Klitschko. All of those ended in defeat. Mercer retired in 2008 with a 36 – 7 – 1 record.
After the Mercer loss, Morrison would go on a win streak of 10 consecutive fights, including beating George Foreman in June of 1993 to win the WBO belt. Morrison lost the title by first-round TKO to Michael Bentt in October of 1993.
He to eventually would step into the ring with Undiputed World Champ Lennox Lewis, who stopped him in six rounds in October of 1995.
Controversy surrounded Morrison’s boxing career soon after, as it was discovered he had acquired the HIV virus in a pre-fight drug test. Morrison disputed that he had the virus and tried unsuccessfully for several years to be licensed to fight in the United States.
He eventually was given a license by West Virginia in February of 2007, when he knocked out John Castle in two rounds . He fought one more time, a year later defeating Matt Weishaar in Mexico.
Finally, five years later in August of 2013. Morrison’s mother revealed that he had developed AIDS and was dying. Morrison died on September 1st in an Omaha Nebraska Hospital at the age of 44.
A sad end for sure for the fighter with the Hollywood good looks and pedigree 20 years earlier.