ESPN Films next month will premiere a 30 for 30 documentary focusing on heavyweight boxing champion Tommy Morrison — better known to Rocky fans as Tommy Gunn.
The doc, dubbed Tommy, will detail Morrison’s boxing career, as well as his time filming his role as Gunn in Rocky V. A longtime boxer, Morrison defeated George Foreman for the World Boxing Organization’s heavyweight title in 1993, three years after the release of Rocky V.
Morrison’s professional boxing career, however, came to an end in 1996, when he tested positive for HIV. Retired from the sport by age 27, Morrison fell into a life of drugs and crime, an ESPN release notes. Morrison would later deny the diagnosis and claimed that the results of the HIV test were a false positive.
He returned briefly to boxing in 2007 and 2008 after testing negative for HIV in several examinations. Ringside officials at the time expressed doubt that Morrison would “pass any of this” testing given the 1996 diagnosis and questioned whether the blood tested belonged to him, as the New York Times notes. In a 2013 interview with ESPN, Morrison’s wife, Trisha, contended that Morrison had the rare Guillain-Barre Syndrome, in which the immune system attacks a person’s nerves.
Morrison died in September 2013 at age 44. According to reports, the boxer died due to cardiac arrest.
Rocky lovers, however, will likely always remember Morrison for his role as Rocky V’s Gunn — Rocky’s one-time mentee and eventual opponent in the film’s vicious street-fight climax. In the film’s original script, Gunn was supposed to kill Rocky, but the story was later changed because of pressure from the studio.
“Although testing positive for HIV was a big part of Tommy’s life, we did not set out for this to be an HIV story,” co-director Gentry Kirby says of the upcoming doc. “Tommy is more of a personal, intimate look into how a person’s upbringing can affect their ability to handle everything that life throws at them.”
Tommy will air Wednesday, Sept. 27, at 8 p.m., on ESPN2.