Rocky V Boxer Tommy Morrison Dead at 44

Former heavyweight champ had tested positive for HIV in 1996

By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 2, 2013 12:14 PM CDT

(Newser) – Former world heavyweight champion Tommy Morrison, best known for his role in Rocky V and a very public HIV diagnosis, died last night in Nebraska of undisclosed causes, reports the Tulsa World. He was 44. "It's true," says his former promoter. "He was with his wife Trisha when he passed." Morrison claimed the World Boxing Organization's title in a victory over George Foreman in June 1993; he lost it four months later in a first-round knockout to a newcomer. "I zigged when I should have zagged," he later said. "It's one of those situations you have to live with and learn from it. I'll be back." His lifetime record was 48-3-1.

Morrison starred as Tommy "Machine" Gunn in Rocky V. But perhaps his most public moment came in 1996, when he admitted amid a media firestorm that he had tested positive for HIV and had been suspended by the Nevada Athletic Commission. Morrison tearfully apologized to "a number of sparring partners out there that I worked with, and more importantly, the young ladies that I've been involved with," and urged them to get tested. Morrison later denied that he was HIV-positive, notes the AP, and attempted to resume his career. He fought as recently as 2008 in Mexico.

In this Feb. 20, 2007 photo, Tommy Morrison, a former heavyweight champ who gained fame for "Rocky V." He has died at age 44.   (AP photo/Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Center, Charles Saus)
In this June 7, 1993 file photo, newly crowned WBO heavyweight champion Tommy Morrison receives his championship belt after defeating George Foreman in Las Vegas.   (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)
In this Feb. 9, 2008 file photo, former world heavyweight champ Tommy Morrison, celebrates after defeating Matt Weishaar in Leon, Mexico.   (AP Photo/Mario Armas)
In this Feb. 15, 1996 file photo, heavyweight boxer Tommy Morrison and promoter Tony Holden bow their heads at a news conference about Morrison being HIV positive, in Tulsa, Okla.   (AP Photo/David Longstreath, File)
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