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June 7, 1993: Tommy Morrison’s boxing masterpiece

This writer: “Champ, how on earth did a fight between two massive punchers, yourself and Tommy Morrison, go the distance?”

George Foreman: “That’s a good question”.

It was a quarter of a century ago when the late Tommy Morrison boxed out of his skin, produced THE win of his career, boxed a masterpiece and overcame the odds to defeat a legend.

George Foreman may have been 43 years old, he may have been coming off a bloody and damaging (to him mostly) win over Alex Stewart, and he may have lost to Evander Holyfield in another hard encounter, but Foreman was still expected to have too much power, toughness and sheer experience for Morrison – a man who, in his sole pro loss, had been on the precipice of being seriously and permanently injured. Indeed, the nasty KO loss Tommy had suffered at the unrestrained hands of Ray Mercer was quite fresh in the mind when Morrison took the big gamble of mixing it with “Big George.”

Which would crack first – Foreman’s face (so badly had he been disfigured in the Stewart battle) or Morrison’s chin?

Amazingly, astonishingly, neither gave.

In what was expected to be a violent slugfest, a boxing match broke out. Boxing with brains many critics knowingly claimed he never had, Morrison, sticking and moving, never let Foreman get set to do damage. It was far from a thrilling fight (no stinker either; engrossing until the very end) but the Bill Cayton-guided superstar in the making was, for one night only, looking like the best young heavyweight on the planet. How could Morrison be outboxing, defeating Foreman with far less of a struggle and a scare than the superior Holyfield had done two years earlier?

Foreman did manage to get home with the odd good punch – a crisp left hook to the head drawing some ‘oohs and aahs’ from the somewhat perplexed crowd in the last round – but this night was Morrison’s. The scores were announced to a crowd that already knew who had won. Morrison, the WBO heavyweight champ, had socked it to Foreman as well as to the naysayers.

George, a most gracious loser (some said too gracious; did Foreman, who admittedly had a fondness for Tommy, take it easy on his young opponent?) whispered some words of wisdom into Morrison’s ear, before going in search of some fried chicken. Cayton was all-smiles; Morrison was strangely reserved in victory.

All in all it was an odd night in Las Vegas. Tommy never again boxed so smartly, George never retired as most felt he would. Morrison was, by and large, unable to capitalise on the big, big win – instead losing badly to Lennox Lewis and then tragically being infected with HIV. Morrison did pull off a fine and thrilling win over “Razor” Ruddock a couple of years later but he had, so surprisingly, peaked both mentally and physically as a boxer on the evening of June 7 1993.

“We think of Tommy all the time,” George told this writer recently. “Gone way too soon.”

Tommy’s boxing masterpiece lives on.