Promoter Tony Holden first met Tommy Morrison in the late 80s, and promoted the left hook specialist for much of the run-up to his glory days, fights against Ray Mercer, George Foreman and Lennox Lewis. Holden was in a reflective mood on Monday, the day after the boxer he thought of more like family than someone in his stable passed away.
“If Tommy was fighting today,” said the Tulsa resident Holden, who promoted Morrison, Johnny Tapia, Naseem Hamed and Joe Mesi, and today helps run the Buffalo Run Casino in Miami, Oklahoma, “he'd probably be making $50 million. His left hook was as good as any in history.”
Holden told me that he was in constant contact with Tommy's wife, Trisha, who he says did a good deed hanging by the fighter's side through lots of thick and much thin.
If Morrison were campaigning today, a fight against a prime Klitschko would garner an obscene payday, Holden told me. Winning would be no easy feat, Holden said, as Morrison had a hard time with a long, tall smart boxer with an educated jab. But against these 2013 Klitschkos, boxers Holden thinks have faded quite a bit, Morrison in his prime would lay some harsh leather on them. “In his prime, against these Klitschkos, Tommy beats them,” Holden said.
The fighter, who Holden said used to warm his heart with his penchant for giving away all his gambling money in Atlantic City to homeless people on the streets, succumbed to the temptation of a rock star lifestyle when fame and money was dropped into his lap at age 21. A Rocky movie, a pulverizing KO punch on an imminent path to a Mike Tyson fight…Morrison was surrounded by bounteous babes and hangers on. He grooved on it…and it hurt him to the core when the rug was yanked out from under him, when he was told he was HIV positive. His pal and confidante Holden actually handed him that news in Vegas in February 1996 and Holden looked on sadly as the groupies and besties scattered. “Emotionally, he never recovered,” said Holden. “Nobody wanted to be in the same room with him, shake his hand. It was like he was a leper.”
The promoter didn't care to discuss the cause of death, and the matter of Morrison's diagnosis of AIDs, or some other disease. But he did say he didn't agree with Morrison's take on being HIV positive, and wanted the boxer to listen to the advice of respected physicians who counseled him to take the potent cocktails of drugs to battle the disease. That said, Holden will mostly focus on Morrison's superlative heart in the ring. He kept on fighting with a broken jaw, a jaw cracked in two, against Joe Hipp in 1992, before securing a TKO9 win. “You just don't see that today,” Holden said.
Holden said he thinks Morrison, who tangled mightily with the adoration evaporating post diagnosis, and battled established medical protocol and science regarding AIDS, died with some serenity in his heart. “I think he died in peace,” he said. “But Tommy struggled with that night in Nevada, when he was told he couldn't fight anymore.”
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