Former WBO Heavyweight champion Tommy Morrison, whose career was halted by a false-positive HIV test, died at an Omaha, Neb. hospital Sept. 1, according to multiple media sources. He was 44.
Although his cause of death was not announced publicly, Morrison’s wife of two years, Trisha, told MMADirt.com that he died of “acute respiratory and metabolic acidosis and multiple organ failure.”
According to ESPN, Morrison’s boxing career ended just before a 1996 fight against Arthur Weathers when the Nevada Athletic Commission determined that Morrison tested positive for HIV. The commission subsequently banned Morrison from ever boxing in the state of Nevada again.
Afterward, Morrison denied having HIV and also challenged the existence of the virus. However, several days after this incident, Morrison’s physician administered an HIV test that also came out positive. On February 15, 1996, during a news conference, Morrison announced that he had obtained HIV due to a “permissive, fast and reckless lifestyle,” ESPN reported. He went on to say that he would “absolutely” never fight again.
Despite his announcement, a few months later, in September 1996, he announced that he wanted to fight again and donate all the proceeds to his ‘KnockOut AIDS Foundation.’ Unfortunately, his ban from Nevada and the announcement of his positive HIV test stopped him from fighting at that time.
Ten years later, Morrison said that the HIV tests he had taken were “false positive.” In 2007, Morrison was back in the ring after passing medical tests in Texas and West Virginia. However, Nevada stood by its ruling, according to ESPN.
According to The New York Times, Morrison took two HIV tests in 2007, plus a third specifically for the Times. HIV experts reviewed the three tests and concluded that the 1996 result had indeed been a false positive.
One of Morrison’s most notable fights came when he defeated George Foreman in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 6, 1993 to claim the vacant WBO heavyweight title. Morrison also played Tommy Gunn in the movie “Rocky V” in 1990.
Morrison also faced legal trouble, according to USA Today. After being charged with multiple weapons and DUI violations, he served two years in prison beginning in 2000, and was sentenced to an additional year in 2002 for violating his parole.
Morrison’s last fight was in 2008; his final boxing record was 48 wins, including 42 by knockout, 3 losses and 1 draw.