The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

February 14, 2014

Son of Tommy Morrison following boxing legacy

Trey Lippe to make pro debut Saturday at Buffalo Run

MIAMI, Okla. — Trey Lippe doesn’t have too many memories of his father’s boxing career. After all, Lippe was only 3 years old when Tommy “The Duke” Morrison defeated George Foreman for the WBO heavyweight title on July 6, 1993.

“Honestly, I didn’t grow up around boxing a lot,” said Lippe, who is now 24 years old. “I lived with my mom. The times I was around boxing was when I was with my dad. It’s kind of hard to talk about it, because at that young of an age I was just so fascinated with the lights and stuff like that. I didn’t really know what boxing was. I was just kind of there.

“I know I went to two of his fights. I don’t remember which two they were. I remember seeing all the lights, and I remember him holding me after the fight.”

More than 20 years after his father earned a unanimous decision over Foreman, Lippe is going to start his own journey in the sport of boxing.

Lippe is scheduled to make his pro debut in a four-round heavyweight bout on Saturday night at Buffalo Run Casino. The sold-out card, which is dubbed the “Night of Future Champions,” also includes undefeated Seneca High School graduates Dillon Cook and Jesse Cook.

Because of the success of his late father, there is a level of pressure and hype that normally wouldn’t exist for a rookie boxer with little amateur experience. ESPN camera crews are expected to be in attendance for footage of a “30 for 30” documentary they are filming on Morrison’s life.

Lippe said he does feel some extra pressure leading into his pro debut.

“I think the first time I step into the ring, people are going to want to see him. I expected that before I started, but that’s not going to change the way I approach it. I’m going to do my thing and try to fight smart.

“I’m going to be my own style.”

Morrison, who also is known for starring in “Rocky V” alongside Sylvester Stallone, boasted a pro record of 49-3-1 with 44 knockouts. Some of his notable wins were against the likes of Foreman, Pinklon Thomas, Joe Hipp, Carl “The Truth” Williams and Razor Ruddock.

Morrison stepped down from boxing in 1996, announcing he had tested positive for HIV. Later, Morrison denied ever testing positive and returned to the ring for one fight in 2007 and another in 2008. He died in September 2013, with the cause of death listed as cardiac arrest stemming from organ failure and septic shock.

Lippe said he and his father had talked about starting a boxing career several times. But Lippe played football at Central Arkansas on a scholarship through 2012, and Morrison died right around the time he decided to turn his attention to boxing.

“All the tough times are out of the way,” Lippe said of coping with his father’s death. “It was tough when I got the news. As far as this boxing thing goes, it’d be awesome for him to be here with me. He still is in spirit, and I’m just trying to honor that.”

Lippe will wear red, white and blue trunks that read “Tommy” in honor of his dad.

“He’s not here saying he’s his dad or that he’s better than his dad,” said promoter Tony Holden, who worked with Morrison for the majority of his boxing career. “That’s just him honoring his dad.”

Lippe knows he has a long way to go before achieving anywhere near the level of success as his father. Coached by his step-father, Mark Lippe, he was a standout football player at Vinita (Okla.) High School and went on to be an all-conference defensive lineman in college. Lippe didn’t start training as a boxer until this past November.

However, Holden and trainer Peppe Johnson said the 24-year-old Lippe has unlimited potential.

“When you see him train, no one’s going to take this kid’s punch,” Holden said. “This kid is explosive. If I could get on a computer and design my own heavyweight ... I’d design a 6-foot-3 athlete at 235 pounds. That’s what he is.”

“He has a big career ahead of him,” said Johnson, who has been a boxing trainer since 1998. “He’s God-gifted with punching power. You can’t teach punching power. That’s something you have to have in you. The other thing is that he can take a punch.”

Holden said the lack of strong heavyweight contenders in the United States also will help Lippe quickly climb the ranks.

“Keep in mind that the heavyweight division is just trash,” Holden said. “There’s not a good up-and-coming U.S. heavyweight contender that I’m aware of who’s truly qualified. When his dad fought, he had to fight Riddick Bowe, Lennox Lewis. The ’90s was the era of the heavyweights. If his dad were here today in his prime, he’d make $50 million a fight hands down.”

Lippe will face Oklahoma City’s Kris Renty (1-0) in the main event Saturday.

With the fight not far from his hometown, a large contingent of Lippe’s family and friends will be in attendance.

“It means a lot,” Lippe said. “I’m glad I get to have my first fight in front of a lot of people I know. It makes me a little more comfortable. I’m glad to have that opportunity.”

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