21 years ago this past Thursday on October 18, 1991, “Merciless” Ray Mercer savagely knocked Tommy Morrison onto Queer Street in the fifth round to successfully defend his WBO heavyweight title at the Convention Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The bout pitting two young and undefeated prizefighters aired on Pay Per View and created a palpable buzz throughout the boxing industry.
After primarily losing the first four rounds to the Caucasian hope, Mercer (36-7-1, 26 KOs) caught a 22-year-old Morrison (48-3-1, 42 KOs) with a haymaker against the ropes.
Hurt, dazed and defenseless, Morrison, who a year earlier starred as Tommy “Machine” Gunn in Rocky V, was subsequently struck with roughly a dozen vicious blows by Mercer.
“The Duke,” who hung up the gloves with a combined professional and amateur record of 343–24–1 with 315 knockouts, was finally rescued by bush league referee Tony Perez.
“The referee stepped in a little late,” said a then 30-year-old Mercer, who earned a gold medal for the United States as a heavyweight at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. “A man could get killed.”
Thankfully, and somewhat miraculously, Morrison, an ex-convict who tested positive for HIV in 1996, wasn’t “killed” by the “Merciless” one.
In fact, Morrison, who began illegally scrapping in “toughman” competitions at the tender age of 13, remarkably managed to trump the legendary George Foreman by unanimous decision 20 months later in June 1993 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Regardless, despite Morrison’s admirable recovery, Tony Perez should have been fired twice and sent to jail for nearly causing manslaughter.by