Photo by Scott Weaver
On June 10, 1995, Tommy “The Duke” Morrison (44-2-1, 38 KOs) stepped into the ring to face Donovan “Razor” Ruddock Ruddock (28-4-1, 20 KOs).
The fight was promoted and billed simply as “Raw Power”. It could just as easily been billed as the battle of the left hooks as this was the money punch for both men.
Each had hurt and put away countless opponents with sensational left hooks. On this warm late Spring night, the action took place from the Municipal Auditorium, in Kansas City Missouri.
For Morrison, who for many years lived in Kansas City and called it home, he was fighting on his home turf.
Ruddock had gotten the attention of the boxing world with big KO performances over Michael Dokes and James “Bonecrusher” Smith. However, he was best known for his two wars, albeit in losing efforts, to Mike Tyson.
Morrison also had his share of success. He had wins against name opponents including winning the WBO crown by beating George Foreman. He was also well known, perhaps even “mainstream”, after starring alongside Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky V.”
Both men desperately needed a win to continue their careers moving in the right direction. After losing to Michael Bentt in October of 1993, Morrison had built himself back up by fighting seven times and, with the lone exception of fighting Ross Purrity to a draw, won all of those contests.
Ruddock on the other hand was stepping into the ring against Morrison after some lengthy inactivity. After being blown away by Lennox Lewis inside of two rounds on Halloween night in 1992, he had only fought once since then, earning a unanimous decision against Anthony Wade in January of 1994.
The bout aired as a pay-per-view with Al Bernstein and Dave Bontempo sitting ringside to call the action. Scheduled for 12 rounds, one was hard-pressed to find anyone who thought going the distance was possible given the power both men possessed.
Uniquely, both fighters entered the ring at the same time, accompanied with much flare that included fireworks during the ring walk. Looking back, the fireworks were foreshadowing the events that were soon to follow.
After Michael Buffer’s introductions, referee Ron Lipton gave the opening instructions at center ring.
An electric crowd was inside Municipal Auditorium, many waving white signs with “Tommy” embossed on them. The bell sounded and the fighters wasted little time getting the action started. Ruddock, wearing white trunks with red and gold trim, floored Morrison with a pair of right uppercuts less than one minute into the fight.
In a small, 16-foot ring, there was little room to move.
Morrison, who on this night wore black trunks timed with red and white, immediately climbed to his feet and fought back. Both men threw power punches for the remainder of the round and continued even after the bell sounded to end the opening three minutes.
The action that began round two looked much like the opening stanza. Ruddock, moving forward, pressed the action. Morrison, firing combinations off the jab, was looking to box and move as he did against “Big” George Foreman.
With less than one minute remaining in the round, Morrison landed his own right uppercut, driving Ruddock into the ropes and drawing an immediate standing eight count by Lipton. Ruddock, looking more buzzed than hurt, fought back as only seconds remained in the round.
We were dead even after two.
As the action continued in rounds three and four, both men traded monster shots, took turns stalking the other, and fought at an intense pace.
In the fifth, Ruddock landed a low blow, briefly halting the action. When the fight resumed, Ruddock hurt Morrison who, as it often happened in career, began to tire at this stage of the fight.
The fifth round was again becoming his Achilles’ heel. Both men again fought thru the bell to end the round. Round five was Ruddock’s best of the night.
Round six started off where round five left off with Morrison trying to fight back in spots, but doing a lot more moving and holding when he could.
The tide had clearly turned in Ruddock’ favor and Morrison looked all but spent. Ruddock was moving forward, bearing down hard on Morrison who was now in reverse.
Then, just over a minute into the round, after Ruddock landed two left hooks that sent Morrison into full retreat, he made a fatal mistake.
Chasing Morrison across the ring looking to finish him, Ruddock threw a wild uppercut and Morrison countered with what many say is the best left hook he has ever thrown. It landed flush on Ruddock’s chin, dropping him into a heap at center ring.
As Bernstein shouted, “Big left hook!”, the crowd came to its feet in a complete frenzy. Unbelievably, Ruddock rose from the mat.
After Lipton wiped his gloves, Morrison immediately jumped him. He launched everything he had at Ruddock, driving him into the ropes and earning a standing eight count.
Now, with less than a minute remaining, in a complete reversal of the earlier action, Morrison was moving forward and Ruddock was in full retreat. Ruddock, trying desperately to hold, was offering little back.
Morrison continued the battering, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Ruddock. With just 15 seconds remaining in the round, having unloaded a full scale assault at Ruddock, Morrison moved in for one last attempt to finish the fight.
With Ruddock’s back against the ropes, he launched seven unanswered punches, one snapping Ruddock’s head straight back. Lipton jumped in, hugging Ruddock, and singled a halt to the action.
Morrison had earned a TKO victory a 2:55 of the sixth round. An exhausted Morrison nearly collapsed in his corner with his team cheering triumphantly.
He would soon tell Bontempo, who asked him about the prospect of a seventh round, “I sure hoped there wouldn’t be.”
Morrison’s win secured an October showdown against champion Lennox Lewis, a fight in which he was woefully beaten and took a ruthless pounding from Lewis.
That would be Morrison’s last big fight. Soon thereafter, Morrison tested positive for HIV and retired from the sport.
He often spoke publically about his “reckless lifestyle” and what led to his condition. Morrison later disputed those results and attempted a comeback that never got off the ground.
Sadly, on September 1, 2013, at just 44 years of age, Morrison passed away at a hospital in Omaha, Nebraska.
As for Ruddock, he stepped back into the ring 10 more times after the Morrison loss, winning them all against suspect opposition. He never again rose to the heights of the sport as he did earlier in his career, beating a number of former champions and giving Tyson all he wanted for 19 rounds. With the power he possessed, especially in that left hand, he was never one that could be taken lightly.
Nevertheless, for one night in the Spring of 1995, both men gave us 18 minutes of “Raw Power.”