According to a post on ESPN.com, Morrison’s 17-year battle with HIV has morphed into full-blown AIDS and the former heavyweight champion’s days are likely limited. He’s been confined to a bed for the better part of a year now—probably in Nebraska, though even this is unconfirmed—being cared for by Trisha, his wife.
If you know anything about Morrison’s strange saga, you’re well aware that he doesn’t believe he has HIV. He doesn’t even really believe that HIV is an ACTUAL thing. Like most insane people, he has his own take on things: Morrison thinks that his diagnosis is a government conspiracy and that it was possibly perpetuated by a rival fight promoter.
Trisha—who has had unprotected sex with her husband, as wives are wont to do—doesn’t believe in the diagnosis either.
If the ESPN report is true—and I’m sure it is—it’s the end of a sad chapter in Kansas City sports history. Though Morrison—star of Rocky V, former owner of exotic animals, earner of $10 mil in fight purses—was originally from the tiny town of Jay, Oklahoma, he made his name in Kansas City, as boxing ambassador, likeable ruffian and perennial Westport Prowler.
He was once a fixture in our humble city. A “local-ish” boy made good. The clichéd Great White Hype. He won 49 fights (44 by KO) while only losing three. He beat George Foreman in a unanimous 12 round decision to win the WBO championship. He beat Carl “The Truth” Williams and Razor Ruddick. He had a terrific, bloody battle with Lennox Lewis.
And then the wheels fell off.
An indiscriminate party animal fond of both drugs and promiscuity, Morrison contracted the virus and tested positive in February 1996, effectively ending his career before he’d ever really had a chance to peak. He was only 27 at the time, and a tune-up bout away from what would have been an epic fight with Mike Tyson.
With the positive test, he lost the chance to fight Tyson. He lost a three-fight, $38 mil contract. He lost his career and the adulation of his fans (the latter of which is often cited as having a tremendous impact on Morrison’s post-ring troubles ).
In effect, he lost his life.
He spiraled downward for the next 17 years, preaching his crackpot HIV theories to those who’d listen, all the while ignoring the fact that the malady that didn’t exist was eating away his insides, bringing him ever closer to death.
In 2010, he’d mostly gotten his shit together and was running a gym in Wichita called TCB (Taking Care of Buisness).
The gym closed shortly thereafter, though, and Tommy was back to his slow march toward an early death.
And now that it’s all but done, I’m left with an odd sadness. Not only because I was a fan—what 10 or 11 year old white kid in 1991’s Kansas City wasn’t?—but because he brought this on himself. HIV is far from the death sentence that it used to be, but due to Morrison’s ridiculous stubbornness, he did nothing to work toward living with the affliction. Because of his insanity, he chose to die in one of the most miserable, prolonged, painful ways imaginable.
And that’s a shame.
Because for a period in the early 90’s, Tommy was Kansas City. He brought an electricity to our town like George Brett and Len Dawson did. He was Tom Watson with gigantic biceps and a propensity for punching guys in the head. By virtue of his violent ballet, he added a dash of Hollywood to KC.
It’s really too bad his inability to accept the truth got in the way of his ability to stay alive.
Rest in peace, Tommy.
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