Every Friday, InsiderSport takes a look at a time in which a gripping sporting narrative was portrayed through the unmistakable medium of cinema.
ESPN’s portrayal of unlikely heavyweight hero, Tommy Morrison is as compelling as it is heartbreaking. The turbulent story commences in his birthplace, Jay Oklahoma, where he first laced a pair of boxing gloves, taking heed of advice from his father.
As an up and coming fighter, Morrison was touted as the future king of the heavyweight division, a role that wasn’t to be taken lightly in an era of boxing icons. The rise in both popularity and stature of the man, affectionately known as ‘The Duke’, was rapidly elevated by his role in Rocky V.
Fittingly Morrison was cast as an impassioned young heavyweight desperately seeking the tutelage of former champion, Rocky Balboa in the 1990 film.
Following the role, the Oklahoma native’s career was incredibly unpredictable, it’s clear that the progress of the heavyweight was hindered by his exploits outside the ring, as he indulged in the fame and attention accompanied with being a major heavyweight star far too frequently.
The viewer is taken on a journey of the highest highs and lowest lows, as Morrison’s dramatic rise, to what always felt like his fate, was abruptly halted when in his first attempt at the world heavyweight title he suffered a surprising stoppage defeat to the powerful Ray Mercer.
The way the enigmatic fighter refocuses and restabilises his career is then told in a captivating way, winning contest after contest, before the rollercoaster tale reaches its ultimate peak, with Morrison capturing the heavyweight title against an ageing, but still able George Foreman.
Not long after championship euphoria does the story of Morrison inevitably descend, as his focus once again becomes misplaced and he spirals out of control, allowing the luxuries of being a much adored sports star to send his concentration and discipline into free fall.
The documentary should be lauded for the way in which it illustrates the successes of Morrison, as well as how much his stardom captured the imagination of his otherwise detached hometown, as he became one of boxing’s most recognisable figures.
As it appears the troubled fighter is ready to ride into the sunset signing a lucrative multi fight deal with controversial Promoter Don King, Morrison’s antics, which cost him earlier in his career, reemerge to haunt him in a tragic manor, when a routine drugs test revealed he was carrying the HIV virus, which would force him into an early retirement.
‘Tommy’, the ESPN documentary, does an incredible job of telling the story of one of the most dramatic boxing careers of the modern era. The viewer shares the highs that always felt like they were meant to be part of Morrison’s story as well as the traumatic lows that held him back from becoming one of the sport’s true greats. A must-watch for boxing fans, and those fascinated by sporting legacies.