Review of “The Duke”

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I had vaguely recalled the name Tommy Morrison when this book popped up on my feed when searching for new boxing books. Seeing that it was written by a very good boxing author, Carlos Acevedo, I decided to pick it up – that turned out to be a good decision.  Here is my review of “The Duke”

Title/Author: “The Duke: The Life and Lies of Tommy Morrison” by Carlos Acevedo

Rating: 5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:  Tommy Morrison is probably one of the most tragic figures in boxing.  He was hyped as one of the many “Great White Hope” fighters that was pursuing the heavyweight boxing title.  That was a very prestigious title in sports during his career in the 1980’s and 1990’s and he achieved that goal.  Of course, this was during the time when boxing had some many sanctioning bodies – some of them with questionable credentials.  But nonetheless, Morrison did obtain one title with his defeat of George Foreman in 1993, earning the WBO (World Boxing Organization) heavyweight title.  However, this book by Carlos Acevedo, a very well-respected boxing author, does much more than recap Morrison’s fights and his life.

It should be also noted that Morrison not only was a celebrity due to his boxing but also as an actor.  He played the part of Tommy Gunn in Rocky V and while the movie was not as big a blockbuster as the other movies in that franchise, it did earn Morrison some celebrity status outside of the boxing and sports world, and this is important when discussing his private life, as will be noted later and also is done well by Acevedo.

The book is divided into two parts, and they are drawn out at the time of a very shocking (at the time) announcement:  in 1996, Morrison publicly announced that he was infected with the HIV virus. That was a jolt to the boxing world – and also in the sporting world, who still was grappling with a similar announcement by Magic Johnson in 1991.  Since at the time HIV was still considered a death sentence and much incorrect information was being circulated about HIV and AIDS, it was a very big deal to learn of Morrison’s announcement. 

Part I of the book deals mostly with Morrison’s early life and his boxing career, with some passages about his movie role as well. He ties the two of them together well when possible.  A great example of this is when Morrison defeated Foreman for the WBO title but yet the audience and media were not satisfied with this performance.  Acevedo writes that the crowd was “expecting more Tommy Gunn and less Running Man, but he was also lambasted by the media” and then further indirectly quotes a boxing writer accusing Morrison of cowardice during the Foreman fight.  There are many more examples of this type of writing in Part I.

However, Acevedo saved the best for Part II, which deals with Morrison’s life, both in and out of the ring (and courtroom and jail) after his announcement that he had tested positive for HIV before a scheduled bout with Arthur Weathers.  If you have not heard of Arthur Weathers, that is perfectly fine – as Morrison had built up his record on many unknown and less than average boxers, something Acevedo notes frequently in both parts. Acevedo also has many excellent statements that show not only his knowledge but also his wit and use of the language, such as this one about one of Morrison’s many trainers in the boxer’s career – this trainer, “like so many others in a sport that seemingly took its cues from Dada or the Marx Brothers, he was susceptible to delusion.”

Morrison also was heavy into conspiracy theories after his diagnosis as well as having an issue with telling the truth.  He had stated that he was living a healthy lifestyle to combat his diagnosis, when in reality he was still very promiscuous and taking drugs.  He was frequently criticizing the advances made in combating the disease, saying they were not effective or even true for various reason.  He eventually succumbed to the disease at age 44 in 2013. 

For readers who remember Tommy Morrison, whether for his boxing or his role in Rocky V, this book is one that will tell his complete story, warts and all and is a riveting fascinating look at one of the more tragic celebrities in our time.  Yes, there are many of those types of stories, but this book is one that tells about one such tale in a well-written manner.

Link: The Duke: The Life and Lies of Tommy Morrison eBook : Acevedo, Carlos: Kindle Store


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