Tuesday, September 3, 2013
By Tom Friend | ESPN.com
Tommy Morrison died Sunday night of an undisclosed illness. But for all intents and purposes, he died of denial.
In 1996, Morrison was diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In 1997, he told me he was still having unprotected sex with his first wife.
"I'll trust an attorney before I'll trust a doctor," he said.
I'm not sure how many wives he ended up with (I lost count after the fourth), but nothing ever changed. His last wife, Trisha, recently told ESPN.com's Elizabeth Merrill that they, too, had had unprotected sex. As far as Tommy was concerned, his HIV never existed. He searched high and low for rogue doctors who would assure him he was fine, who would clear him to go back to boxing. He was nothing without boxing, nothing without sex -- so he looked the other way.
He tried AZT for a month and threw it in the trash; he thought the HIV therapy drug taken by most HIV patients was propoganda. His family staged an intervention to get him back on meds, but he cursed at them and said, "I will lay down and die before I take any drugs." Magic Johnson tried to reach out to him in 1996 -- the same Magic Johnson who is thriving 22 years after his own HIV diagnosis -- and Tommy Morrison plum ignored him.
"I remember talking to Magic the day I announced I had HIV," Morrison told me in 1998. "He was preaching, 'Do what your doctor tells you.' Well, I didn't have a doctor then, so I got down on my knees and I prayed. Every day, I was like, 'God, what do I do?' Hell, I saw myself dying. And then I started getting all these books in the mail, and they all said, 'Don't worry about it. Just live your life.' So that's what I did."
Posted by Seth Kalichman at 8:40 AM