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Tommy Morrison: ‘Rocky V’ Actor Whose HIV Status Ruined Boxing Career

Tommy Morrison Rocky V Sylvester Stallone
Tommy Morrison in Rocky V with Sylvester Stallone.

Boxer Tommy Morrison dead at 44: Was featured opposite Sylvester Stallone in ‘Rocky V’ & had boxing career ruined by HIV-positive status

Boxer Tommy Morrison, a former heavyweight champion who was featured opposite Sylvester Stallone in the 1990 sequel Rocky V, and who made headlines after it was revealed that he was HIV-positive, died Sunday night, Sept. 1, at a Nebraska hospital, according to various online reports. The cause of death hasn’t been made public. Morrison (born on January 2, 1969, in Jay, Oklahoma) was 44.

According to the IMDb, Tommy Morrison could be seen in only two films. Besides Rocky V, he had an uncredited bit role as a resistance fighter in John Carpenter’s (sort of) satirical actioner / sci-fier They Live (1988), starring wrestler Roddy Piper.

In John G. Avildsen’s Rocky V, the 21-year-old Morrison played Tommy ‘Machine’ Gunn, an up-and-coming boxer Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa is eager to coach – though competition for the Machine Gunn’s punching talents is fierce. The critically derided Rocky V disappointed at the domestic box office, collecting $40.94 million (approximately $79 million today). The Rocky sequel fared better internationally, grossing an estimated $79 million at the time, as found at Box Office Mojo.

Tommy Morrison: HIV-positive status ended boxing career

In real life, Tommy Morrison’s boxing career came to an abrupt halt in 1996, when he tested positive for the HIV virus. Back then, Morrison stated he had caught the virus as a result of his “permissive, fast and reckless lifestyle.”

Among Morrison’s other life woes were a number of run-ins with the law. In the early ’90s, he pleaded guilty to assaulting a college student, and later on he would face weapons charges and DUI arrests. He was sentenced to two years in prison in 2000, with one year added at the end of his sentence for having violated his parole.

Upon his release, Tommy Morrison claimed his HIV-positive results had been false, and briefly returned to the ring. According to his promoter Tony Holden, when Morrison first learned he was HIV-positive, “I was taking him to seek treatment and to different doctors around the country. And then he started research on the Internet and started saying it was a conspiracy. He went in that direction and never looked back.”

Tony Holden quote via The Associated Press. Sylvester Stallone, Tommy Morrison Rocky V photo: MGM/UA.

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