by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
The boxing vs. mixed martial arts debate is nearing a full-blown frenzy of late. Former heavyweight contender Tommy “The Duke” Morrison is the latest to enter the fray, but he has actually signed on the dotted line to back up his talk.
Though it’s not of the ilk of a Sean Sherk vs. Floyd Mayweather bout, Morrison will step into the cage to face 340-pound mixed martial artist John Stover. The bout is scheduled to take place as part of the June 9 event at Cliff Castle Casino in Arizona presented by Worldwide Fighting Championship. Far from the credentials of a fighter like UFC Lightweight Champion Sean Sherk, who has a professional record of 31-2-1, Stover is still an experienced fighter with 8 bouts to his credit.
Morrison, however, is no slouch. He holds a professional record of 47-3-1, according to BoxRec, has wins over the likes of George Forman, held two different heavyweight title belts and was in line for big money fights against boxers like Mike Tyson.
At the height of is career, in 1996, Morrison quit boxing because he tested positive for HIV during routine testing prior to a fight in Nevada.
“I had just signed a three-fight deal with Don King,” Morrison recalls in a published statement, “that was going to lead to a showdown with Mike Tyson that was worth $38 million. My first fight was against Stormy Weathers in Las Vegas, but then came the test result and the fight was cancelled. I estimate that cost me around $100 million in fight purses over the past 10 years.”
Claiming to be symptom free, Morrison was approved by the West Virginia Athletic Commission in February of 2007 to return to the ring, following negative test results in Phoenix, Arizona. He defeated John Castle in his return bout in West Virginia.
What spurred Morrison on to try his hands at MMA were the remarks of UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Chuck Liddell on a local Dallas, Tex. morning show. When asked by the host who Liddell wanted to fight, he replied that he would like to face Morrison.
“I couldn’t believe that,” Morrison says. “It’s one thing to talk about fighting someone, but another thing to actually do it. Let’s see if Chuck Liddell’s heart is as big as his mouth.”
Morrison continued, “He is crazy to want to get into the cage with me. I beat George Foreman. Nobody in the history of boxing hit harder than George Foreman. So why would I be afraid to get hit by Chuck Liddell? He should be the one to be afraid. Liddell has never been hit by anyone like me.”
“[UFC President] Dana White always talks about how a top cagefighter like Liddell could beat a top boxer, so here’s a chance to make it happen. I want to know if Liddell and Dana White really mean what they say or if they are just full of talk.” Throwing down the gauntlet, Morrison finished, “I will take on Chuck Liddell anytime, anyplace, anywhere.”
Aside from his accolades in the boxing ring, Morrison is also well known for his role as Rocky Balboa’s protogé Tommy Gunn in the movie Rocky V starring Sylvester Stallone.