The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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September 2, 2013

Former boxing promoter recalls long friendship with Tommy Morrison

Tommy Morrison’s longtime friend and promoter remembered the former boxer and actor fondly on Monday, just hours after announcing Morrison’s death at age 44.

Tony Holden, who had worked with Morrison since 1989 as a promoter, secured many of Morrison’s early fights in the region and continued working with him as he rose through the ranks of professional boxing.

The two became extremely close as friends, with Morrison serving as best man at Holden’s wedding.

“I’ve lost a friend that I’ll never forget,” Holden, of Tulsa, Okla., said. “I’ve never seen someone with his charisma. It was always an adventure with him.”

Morrison, who was born in Gravette, Ark., grew up in Jay, Okla., where he graduated from high school, and had many ties to the area. He made his boxing debut at age 7 in Rogers, Ark.

Morrison also ran into legal trouble in the area, including being sentenced in 2000 to 10 years in prison, with eight years suspended, after pleading guilty in Washington County, Ark., to a variety of drug and other charges.

It was a Washington County judge, William Storey, who lectured Morrison about wasting his career for drugs.

“In many respects, you had it made financially and squandered it all with your involvement with drugs,” the judge said. “I hope you have learned your lesson.”

“God put me in jail to wake up,” Morrison told the judge.

Morrison had previously faced a number of drug, gun and other charges in Delaware County, Okla.

But even though Morrison ran into trouble in the area, Holden said his friend was always proud of his connection to the region.

“This is his hometown area, and he was proud to be from the Four-State Area,” Holden said. “He always promoted the area and kept true to his roots.”

Holden on Monday declined to comment on Morrison’s cause of death.

Morrison tested positive for HIV in a pre-fight test in 1996, but he later said the test was a false positive and denied that he was HIV-positive.

“I don’t want a test result to overshadow his legacy,” Holden said. “The time following that test was sad because all of these people who had been around him, who wanted to meet him, just pulled away. It was terrible to see the way that he was treated.”

Holden said he was the one who broke the news to Morrison in 1996 about the positive test.

“I got a call from the commission, and I had to tell Tommy,” Holden said. “When I told him, he said, ‘Let’s just get through this fight,’ and I had to explain to him that there wouldn’t be a fight that night.”

Holden has since retired as a boxing promoter. He said that through his years, he has never seen anyone like Morrison.

“He always sold tickets, and he knew where he came from,” he said. “He always got up, no matter what was thrown at him.”

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