Monday, February 26, 2007

Morrison: Turning negatives into positives

Tommy Morrison climbed back through the ropes after an enforced 11-year sabbatical last Thursday night and duly did what 'The Duke' does best.

He knocked someone out.

He may be well over a decade removed from his prime and he may well have been fighting a ne'er do well by the name of 'Big' John Castle, but Morrison's bout created a minor media frenzy on both sides of the Atlantic.

This was due to the fact that the former heavyweight contender had not thrown a hook in anger since 1996 after testing HIV-positive during a pre-fight blood test.

His life spiralled out of control thereafter and Morrison, who is rumoured to be a distant relation of the late silver screen idol John Wayne, spent time in jail on drug and weapons charges.

Morrison managed to get himself back on his horse and was recently, remarkably, medically cleared to box again. The man himself, who holds wins over the likes of George Foreman and Donavan 'Razor' Ruddock, was always convinced he would fight again.

"I'm negative and I've always been negative and that should be the end of it," Morrison recently told the Associated Press. "The rug was yanked from out under my feet by a misdiagnosis. All I want to do is fight. It's unfinished business."

The boxing world is split as to whether his return is a good thing or a bad thing.

With the increasing threat of Mixed Martial Arts and a fistful of heavyweight champions who struggle to qualify as household names in their own households, many feel the decision to let 'The Duke' box again is yet another black eye for the noble art.

However I beg to differ.

If Morrison has been given the medical OK to box on then who are we to stand in his way?

I never really blame a fighter for doing what he wants to do, even if well past his prime. If Evander Holyfield can continue to chase heavyweight rainbows the why can't Morrison, a man six years the Real Deal's junior, do the same?

And Morrison was nothing if not exciting.

The 47-3-1 (41) Phoenix native was a devastating puncher in his prime but like a lot of exciting fighters he was not blessed with a great chin.

His losses to Michael Bentt and Ray Mercer stand out for me as two of the most crushingly spectacular KO defeats of the 1990s. And if heavyweight boxing is now dominated by big men in need of personality transplants, then Tommy could prove the perfect foil.

He made his name of course starring alongside Sylvester Stallone in Rocky V and may well have been inspired to come back after watching the new Rocky Balboa flick. You can imagine him now in his front room after switching off the DVD: 'if it's good enough for Sly, it's good enough for me'.

The Duke, who once fought 19 times in a year, was also always good for a quote and as he showed against Castle in West Virginia last week his punching power remains intact.

Morrison never made it to the very top during his prime years but he can count himself unfortunate that he was plying his trade in a golden era that featured the likes of Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Riddick Bowe, Mike Tyson and others.

Chances are he may never reach the heavyweight mountain top, but the least we can do is allow 'The Duke' the opportunity to try and turn that negative into a positive.


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