TULSA - Tommy "The Duke" Morrison, the former world heavyweight champion boxer has died. He was 44.
Morrison's long time promoter, Tony Holden, confirmed his death Monday.
Morrison died at 11:50 p.m. Sunday night in Omaha, Nebraska.
Holden would not comment on Morrison's cause of death.
Morrison was a native of Jay, Oklahoma, where Holden says he came from a low-income family and made his name participating in Toughman contests.
Holden and Morrison met in Kansas City. At the time, Holden produced a television show that featured celebrities on fishing trips. Holden remembered Morrison as an up-and-coming boxer when they first met.
He took Morrison on one of his filmed fishing trips so that he could have a show in "can" in case Morrison "made it big."
"Next thing I know, I was promoting his show, his next boxing show with 20,000 people and two or three times in a row. One thing led to another, and I was promoting him full time," Holden said.
Holden said Morrison opened his eyes to the world of boxing.
"Tommy never, ever had a dull fight. I mean, he would get knocked down, but he would get up. He had a left hook that, to this day, it's the most powerful left hook I've ever seen."
Holden vividly recalled the lead-up to a connection from one of Morrison's left hooks.
"He would torque his body like a tornado and would come up and just explode his hips, and it was just beautiful," he said.
That hook would come in handy for "The Duke" when he faced George Foreman in 1993 for the world heavyweight title. He would beat Foreman.
"Tommy fought in the '90s. That's a whole different era than now. That's when you had Riddick Bowe, [Mike] Tyson, [Evander] Holyfield, Lennox Lewis. All these guys jumped together and today, you can't even name a heavyweight champion."
It was also that punch that caught the attention of Sylvester Stallone.
"He was an ESPN darling before he made it big, and so he was always on television and that's where Stallone found him," he said.
Morrison played Tommy "The Machine" Gunn in "Rocky V."
In 1996, life took a dramatic turn for Morrison and for Holden.
Before a fight in Las Vegas, Morrison tested positive for HIV.
"I'm the one who told him he had it," Holden remembered.
The positive test ended Morrison's career, and changed his relationships with the people around him.
"Everybody wanted to be his friend. Everybody wanted to be around him. Everybody wanted to shake his hand -- to the point where no one wanted to touch him. No one wanted to be in a room with him. No one wanted to shake his hand in a matter of 24 hours. I saw it, and that was the biggest defeat of his life."
Morrison's battle with HIV was heavily publicized.
Holden said that diagnosis is not Morrison's legacy.
"He was a great fighter. That's what his legacy should be as a boxer. As far as a person, yeah Tommy made mistakes. We all do, but know his big heart, his caring for people, him giving money to people all the time of need and never letting anybody know. He gave away a lot of his fortune to the needy."
Holden says Morrison is survived by his wife and four sons.
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