The loss meant a potential $7.5 million payday for a title unification fight simply vanished.
“I zigged when I should have zagged,” Morrison said afterward. “It’s one of those situations you have to live with and learn from it. I’ll be back.”
Morrison indeed came back, but he was never the same feared fighter. He beat a bunch of long shots and faded stars over the next couple of years before getting knocked out by Lewis in the sixth round.
That fight happened in October 1995. By February, Morrison had tested positive for HIV.
He’d been preparing for another fight that winter when his blood test came back positive for the virus that causes AIDs. Morrison’s license was quickly suspended by Nevada, and the ban was, in effect, upheld by every other sanctioning body. Morrison said at a news conference in 1996 that he’d never fight again, blaming his plight on a “permissive, fast and reckless lifestyle.”
His lifestyle never changed, though, even when he stepped away from the ring.
He had already run afoul of the law in 1993, when he pleaded guilty to assaulting a college student. He also dealt with weapons charges and multiple DUI incidents over the years.
Morrison was finally sentenced to two years in prison in 2000, and another year was added to his sentence in 2002 for violating parole.
When he was released, Morrison said his HIV tests were in fact false positives, and he wanted to resume his career. He passed medical tests in Arizona — even as Nevada stood by its decision to suspend his license — and returned to the ring. Morrison fought twice more in his career, winning once in West Virginia and for the final time in Mexico. He finished with a record of 48-3-1 with 42 knockouts.
Morrison started to fade from the public eye in the final years of his life. He tried to stay connected to the sport by opening a gym in Wichita, Kan., but the enterprise was short-lived.
“If Tommy was fighting today, he no doubt would be a world champion,” Holden said. “You have to look at who he was fighting in the ’90s, the guys in that division were Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Riddick Bowe, Ray Mercer, George Foreman. There’s no one with that talent today. Tommy would absolutely dominate if he were in his prime boxing today.”