Shortly before midnight last Sunday, former heavyweight boxing champion Tommy Morrison died in an Omaha, Neb., medical facility.
Within minutes, Dawn Hosterman's telephone rang.
"About a year ago, I found out that Tom was very ill," Hosterman said. "I had asked someone - a mutual friend - to please call me when Tom passed away. I did not want to learn about it from the news or on Facebook. I wanted someone personally to let me know. For the last year, I've been expecting that phone call any day.
"I got up very early that next morning - about 6 o'clock. My husband and child were still asleep, and I went out on the patio and sat there and cried for two hours. Tom was a big part of my past. I've known him since I was 14 years old."
In 1996-2000, Hosterman's name was Dawn Morrison.
She had been Mrs. Tommy Morrison.
According to a State of Nebraska death certificate posted on the TMZ website, the 44-year-old Morrison died because of cardiac arrest and multiple organ failure, resulting from a blood infection.
"He has a very good heart," Hosterman said, "but a very troubled soul."
In 1993-95, Dawn and Tommy were a couple but not yet married. When he wasn't in training for a fight, Morrison was known to have been consistent in his pursuit of entertainment.
Whether in Kansas City or Tulsa, a Tommy Morrison party usually became an exercise in excess.
"I always had my suspicions, and he always made me think I was crazy," Hosterman said. "I loved him. I believed him. I was very naive at the time."
As the words "for better or worse" were included in their wedding vows, Dawn and Tommy were married in May 1996 - three months after Morrison tested positive for HIV.
On the same day that Morrison spoke during a February 1996 news conference - during which he reported that a second blood test came back positive for HIV - Dawn was informed of the results of her own blood test. It came back negative. Every subsequent test was negative.
Today, she remains a Tulsa resident and a healthy, happily remarried 41-year-old mother of a 5-year-old boy.
"Best thing that's ever happened to me," she said, nodding toward framed photos of her husband and son.
After the positive HIV test, Morrison was suspended by the Nevada Athletic Commission. In effect, he was expelled from boxing at the age of 27. Within hours of his news conference at a south Tulsa hotel, Morrison was at the center of a surreal scene in the living room of his Tulsa promoter, Tony Holden. As Dawn and dazed members of Team Tommy watched silently from the wings, Morrison faced a television camera and took questions from CNN's Larry King.
"I'm convinced that I probably (contracted HIV) through living a very promiscuous lifestyle for about two-and-a-half to three years. I believe that has to be how it happened," Morrison told King. " ... My priorities, somewhere along the line, got really screwed up. I didn't do the right things. I led a very reckless lifestyle."
From 1988-95, Morrison's boxing income is believed to have amounted to $10 million.
By 1998, Holden estimates, Morrison was broke.
There were DUI, drug and gun arrests, and in 2000-01 Morrison served a 14-month prison sentence in Arkansas.
After Morrison's death last week, Hosterman, Holden and former Morrison trainer Tom Virgets were consistent with their reminiscence: There was a Good Tommy and a Bad Tommy.
"Tommy fell into nearly every human trap imaginable," Holden said. "He got some fame and money at such a young age. Women. Alcohol. He had an entourage in Kansas City, and some of those people were always hitting him for money. That's why we moved to Tulsa. We had to get out of Kansas City.
"Tommy couldn't stay away from bad influences, but he also did some tremendously generous things for a lot of people. He would read the paper and see that someone was in an accident or having a tough time, and he'd give them $10,000 without even thinking about it."
Morrison fathered three sons with three different women. While married to Dawn, Morrison got married also to another woman. Wife No. 2's name also was Dawn, and she also had blonde hair.
More recently, Morrison was married to a British woman named Trisha. As Morrison's health steadily declined, she has been described as equal parts spouse and guardian.
Trisha reportedly supported Morrison's contention in recent years that he actually was not HIV-positive.
In an email sent from Kiev, Ukraine, where he was involved in an international amateur boxing event, Virgets wrote this about Morrison: When sober, "he had a great personality, was a joy to be around, trained hard and could be reasoned with. But the moment he went out drinking, Dr. Jekyll turned into Mr. Hyde."
"Tommy never learned to defeat alcohol," Virgets wrote. "Tommy lost four fights in his career - (Ray) Mercer, (Lennox) Lewis, (Michael) Bentt and alcohol. Mercer, Lewis and Bentt beat Tommy once. Alcohol beat Tommy one time too many."
Holden and Morrison were business partners and close friends. In 1990, Tony and Tina Holden were married. Morrison was Tony's best man.
"We were like brothers in so many ways," Holden says. "During our prime in the '90s, we had a unique relationship. Tommy and I never had a contract. We had a handshake. That's it."
During a cold night in 1990, while in Philadelphia for the filming of Morrison's part in "Rocky V," Virgets and Morrison neared the end of a five-mile run when they encountered a homeless man, lying on an iron grate from which warm steam emanated.
"Along the way, Tommy spoke about how bad he felt for that guy," Virgets wrote. "Tommy walked back to this street person and gave him a package. A day later, I learned that he had given him $800. That was the good Tommy."
As students at Jay High School, Dawn Hosterman (then known as Dawn Freeman) and Morrison dated occasionally. She was a sophomore when he was a senior. In 1993, the relationship was rekindled. As Morrison's guests, Dawn and her mother traveled to Las Vegas and were seated at ringside during his championship victory over George Foreman.
Seven years later, Dawn and Tommy were in a Fayetteville, Ark., divorce court. After the hearing was concluded, she never saw Morrison again.
"There was a lot of bad stuff, and it progressed over the years," Dawn explains. "I (attribute) that to his drug use. Drugs bring out evil in people. ... He made a lot of really bad choices that left me no option but to walk away.
"I was angry for a lot of years. And hurt, of course. I disconnected from his children (and) his family. I had to disconnect from all of that so that I could move on. I knew that if he got in touch with me, he would have that hold on me again. I wanted to move on."
In 2008, Dawn married Ben Hosterman, a talented musician. Their son is Hayden.
While mourning Morrison's death, Dawn says she has become even more grateful for Ben and Hayden.
"I told Ben, 'I know it's strange for you, seeing me sad about Tom, but I appreciate your understanding,' " Dawn said. "I wouldn't change my life for anything. Ben and Hayden are my world. I always knew that God had something better for me."
Q&A with Tom Virgets, Tommy Morrison's former trainer
Now a senior associate athletic director at the Naval Academy, Tom Virgets was Tommy Morrison's trainer. Last week, Virgets was in Kiev, Ukraine, for an international amateur boxing event. During an email exchange with the Tulsa World, Virgets reflected on Morrison's career:
What made Tommy Morrison such an explosive fighter?
Tommy was one of those rare individuals blessed with an abundance of fast-twitch muscle fiber. He was the Usain Bolt of the boxing world. Just as Bolt can explode out of the blocks, Tommy could generate that fast power - speed plus strength - with his hands. He also had a tight, natural left hook. If he holds any place in boxing history, it should be that he had one of the best-ever left hooks in the game.
When Morrison was at his best in the ring, what were his defining characteristics?
Believe it or not, Tommy's best rounds were against Ray Mercer. For the first four rounds, Tommy was fast and explosive. He hit Mercer at will and moved after his punches so as not to be hit. Unfortunately, Tommy was inexperienced and did not know how to pace himself through later rounds. Mercer took advantage of his fatigue and the fight was over. Tommy was also brilliant against Pinklon Thomas. He never received credit for that bout because everyone decided that Thomas was finished. It would not have mattered if Thomas was 20. Tommy was a machine that night.
Against George Foreman, Tommy showed his most maturity. He was able to stick to a plan that went against everything in his fighting spirit. Tommy wanted to go toe-to-toe against George. I knew that 44-year-old George could not match Tommy's speed if Tommy made George come to him. Tommy did what I asked of him for 12 rounds, beating George to the punch all night. Tommy grew as a boxer that night.
What was Morrison's worst tendency in the ring?
Admiring his work. At times, Tommy would stay upright in the punch zone and admire his work. The opponent usually let him know what he felt about Tommy's work.
When Morrison achieved rock-star status, did it become your greatest challenge as a trainer?
Tommy was an enigma. Most people think that Tommy was a total party animal and that he wouldn't train. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Tommy trained as hard or harder than any boxer in history. When in training, he did three-a-day workouts. Tommy could do six 800-meter runs, each under three minutes and with only one minute of rest between runs. Most middleweights can't do that. He also ran three miles in 18:11 - not bad for a 235-pound boxer.
Morrison's path after boxing
» After his forced departure from boxing in 1996, Tommy Morrison and his then-new wife, Dawn, purchased a $385,000 ranch house near his hometown of Jay. The house was destroyed by fire. An ESPN Magazine photo showed Morrison, with a pet monkey on his shoulder, surveying the ruins of the burned house.
»The Morrisons resided briefly in Tulsa before moving to Fayetteville, Ark. They were divorced in 2000.
» Morrison was married two more times. His second wife's name also was Dawn. They had a son together. Morrison's third wife, Trisha, was with him when he died last week in Omaha, Neb., at the age of 44.
» Morrison dealt with a litany of legal issues that included allegations of assault, DUI, drug possession and unlawful gun possession. In 1998, he was arrested on a drunk-driving complaint in Broken Arrow. In 2000-01, he served a 14-month prison sentence in Arkansas.
» Morrison did some television work, aspired to become a gym owner and, after his HIV-positive test in February 1996, actually boxed three more times - in November 1996 (in Japan), in 2007 (in West Virginia) and in 2008 (in Mexico).
» In recent years, Morrison resided in Wichita, Kan., and Pigeon Forge, Tenn. He was in Nebraska during his final several months, receiving medical treatment.
Tommy Morrison's ring record
1988-2008: 48-3-1, 42 knockouts
Nov. 10, 1988 (New York): Morrison defeated William Muhammad, KO, first round.
Nov. 30, 1988 (Detroit): Morrison defeated Tony Dewar, KO, first round.
Jan. 12, 1989 (Oklahoma City): Morrison defeated Joe Adams, KO, first round.
Jan. 17, 1989 (Sterling Heights, Mich.): Morrison defeated Elvin Evans, KO, first round.
Jan. 24, 1989 (Great Falls, Mont.): Morrison defeated Mike Foley, KO, first round.
Feb. 9, 1989 (New York): Morrison defeated Traore Ali, KO, fourth round.
Feb. 24, 1989 (Atlantic City, N.J.): Morrison defeated Lee Moore, KO, second round.
March 29, 1989 (Wichita, Kan.): Morrison defeated Alan Jamison, KO, first round.
April 22, 1989 (Kansas City, Kan.): Morrison defeated Lorenzo Boyd, KO, second round.
May 14, 1989 (Atlantic City, N.J.): Morrison defeated Mike McGrady, KO, first round.
June 11, 1989 (Atlantic City, N.J.): Morrison defeated Ricky Nelson, KO, second round.
June 25, 1989 (Atlantic City, N.J.): Morrison defeated Steve Zouski, unanimous decision, four rounds.
July 3, 1989 (Atlantic City, N.J.): Morrison defeated Aaron Brown, unanimous decision, six rounds.
Aug. 8, 1989 (Atlantic City, N.J.): Morrison defeated Mike Robinson, KO, second round.
Aug. 22, 1989 (Atlantic City, N.J.): Morrison defeated Jesse Shelby, KO, second round.
Sept. 5, 1989 (Stateline, Nev.): Morrison defeated Rick Enis, KO, first round.
Sept. 19, 1989 (Jacksonville, Fla.): Morrison defeated David Jaco, KO, first round.
Oct. 17, 1989 (Phoenix): Morrison defeated Harry Terrell, KO, first round.
Oct. 26, 1989 (Kansas City, Mo.): Morrison defeated Charles Hostetter, KO, first round.
Nov. 14, 1989 (West Orange, N.J.): Morrison defeated Lorenzo Canady, unanimous decision, six rounds.
Dec. 7, 1989 (Las Vegas): Morrison defeated Ken Lakusta, unanimous decision, six rounds.
June 9, 1990 (Kansas City, Kan.): Morrison defeated Charles Woolard, KO, second round.
Oct. 4, 1990 (Atlantic City, N.J.): Morrison defeated John Morton, KO, fifth round.
Nov. 8, 1990 (Las Vegas): Morrison defeated Mike Acey, KO, first round.
Jan. 11, 1991 (Atlantic City, N.J.): Morrison defeated James "Quick" Tillis, KO, first round.
Feb. 19, 1991 (Kansas City, Mo.): Morrison defeated Pinklon Thomas, first round. Thomas was unable to answer the bell for the second round.
April 19, 1991 (Atlantic City, Mo.): Morrison defeated Yuri Vaulin, KO, fifth round.
June 27, 1991 (Las Vegas): Morrison defeated Ladislao Mijangos, KO, first round.
Oct. 18, 1991 (Atlantic City, N.J.): Ray Mercer defeated Morrison, KO, fifth round.
Feb. 16, 1991 (Las Vegas): Morrison defeated Bobby Quarry, KO, second round.
March 20, 1991 (Las Vegas): Morrison defeated Jerry Halstead, KO, fifth round.
April 23, 1992 (Mashantucket, Conn.): Morrison defeated Kimmuel Odum, KO, third round.
May 14, 1992 (Atlantic City, N.J.): Morrison defeated Art Tucker, KO, second round.
June 27, 1992 (Reno, Nev.): Morrison defeated Joe Hipp, KO, ninth round.
Dec. 12, 1992 (Phoenix): Morrison defeated Marshall Tillman, KO, first round.
Jan. 16, 1993 (Reno, Nev.): Morrison defeated Carl Williams, KO, eighth round.
March 30, 1993 (Kansas City, Mo.): Morrison defeated Dan Murphy, KO, third round.
June 7, 1993 (Las Vegas): Morrison defeated George Foreman, unanimous decision, 12 rounds. Morrison captured the World Boxing Organization heavyweight title.
Aug. 30, 1993 (Kansas City, Mo.): Morrison defeated Tim Tomashek, KO, fourth round.
Oct. 29, 1993 (Tulsa, Convention Center): Michael Bentt defeated Morrison, KO, first round. Bentt captured the World Boxing Organization heavyweight title.
Feb. 20, 1994 (Biloxi, Miss.): Morrison defeated Tui Toia, KO, third round.
March 27, 1994 (Tulsa, Expo Square Pavilion): Morrison defeated Brian Scott, KO, second round.
May 24, 1994 (Tulsa, Brady Theater): Morrison defeated Sherman Griffin, unanimous decision, 10 rounds.
July 28, 1994 (Atlantic City, N.J.): Morrison defeated Ross Puritty, split decision, 10 rounds.
Feb. 7, 1995 (Oklahoma City): Morrison defeated Ken Merritt, KO, first round.
March 5, 1995 (Muskogee): Morrison defeated Marcellus Brown, KO, third round.
March 1, 1995 (Tulsa, Brady Theater): Morrison defeated Terry Anderson, KO, seventh round.
June 6, 1995 (Kansas City, Mo.): Morrison defeated Donovan "Razor" Ruddock, KO, sixth round.
Oct. 7, 1995 (Atlantic City, N.J.): Lennox Lewis defeated Morrison, KO, sixth round.
Nov. 3, 1996 (Urayasu, Chiba, Japan): Morrison defeated Marcus Rhode, KO, first round.
Feb. 22, 2007 (Chester, W. Va.): Morrison defeated John Castle, KO, second round.
Feb. 9, 2008 (Guanajuato, Mexico): Morrison defeated Matt Weishaar, KO, third round.
Bill Haisten 918-581-8397
firstname.lastname@example.org SUBHEAD: tommy morrison: a tragic life remembered
TOMMY MORRISON: a tragic life remembered Local boxing legend lived a complicated life
Original Print Headline: 'Troubled Soul'