25 years ago, Tommy Morrison had just beaten the legendary George Foreman to become the WBO heavyweight champion. Making his second defence of the belt, a 24-year-old Morrison appeared to have completely recovered from the savage KO he’d suffered in his fight with Ray Mercer, back in 1991. But Morrison, 38-1(31) was about to find out how dangerous it really can be to overlook your opponent if you are a fighter. Morrison was taking a relatively “safe” fight, ahead of a massive one with Lennox Lewis.
Enter British-born Michael Bentt. Just a 10-1(6) fighter as a pro, Bentt was a huge underdog – due not only to his lack of a recognizable name, but also due to the fact that he’d been KO’d in a single round in his pro debut back in 1989. Morrison would bank a safe $1 million ahead of earning mega-bucks in the fight with Lewis. But of course, he would not do so.
Morrison came out on the attack, looking for an opening through which to fire his lethal left hook. Bentt looked relaxed and loose, but was soon hurt. A right uppercut got his attention, as did a follow-up left hook to the head, before another left hook had him sagging along the ropes. The crowd was screaming its approval and a quick win for “The Duke” seemed imminent. But then, as he was under more pressure from an overeager Morrison, Bentt landed flush with a superb right hand counter to the head. Down instantly, Morrison was badly hurt. He beat the count okay, but wore a dazed expression upon doing so.
Wasting no time at all in going for the finish, the older man by four years sent Morrison crashing for a second time. Up a little slower this time, and now looking even more bewildered, Tommy was all but totally gone. He’d got up on instinct only and was now nothing more than an inviting target. Bentt accepted his invitation and reeled off yet more hard and accurate blows. Down for a third time, his punch resistance now totally gone, Morrison was stopped on the three knockdown rule. The official time was just 1:33 of the very first-round. The crowd was in total shock.
His unreliable chin having let him down again, Morrison was now out as a Lennox Lewis opponent. Bentt, with his sensational upset, had, in effect, cost Tommy $8 million. Still, as big a splash as he’d made on the world stage, and as quickly as he’d made it, Bentt took no time in disappearing back into almost total obscurity a single fight later. Beaten in seven-rounds by a then undefeated Herbie Hide the following March, Bentt hung up his gloves soon after and never put them on again. Bentt, who appeared in the movie “Ali,” walked away with a final record of 11-2(6).
As for Morrison, he again regrouped, got himself a decent winning streak and then won by stoppage in a mini-classic with “Razor” Ruddock in 1995. Later that same year, Tommy finally got his (by now non-title) fight with Lewis. Stopped in six-rounds, Morrison’s career continued only sporadically from then on. Then, in another absolute shock, it was reported how Tommy had contracted AIDS. Sadly, Morrison left us in just over five years ago, in September of 2013.
The Bentt loss was only the second of three defeats Morrison’s somewhat underrated career saw.