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Rex Tso

How boxer Tommy Morrison got floored by the infamous ‘High Noon in Hong Kong’ fiasco

The ‘Duke’ would have been a perfect opponent for Hide but it never happened as a cast of villains gave the city a black eye

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 October, 2017, 11:31am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 October, 2017, 7:43pm

Rex Tso Sing-yu has put Hong Kong on the world map with his sold-out shows and tenacity in the ring and has, in some part, removed some of the stain left behind by an infamous event 23 years ago.

Long-time Hongkongers will recall one of the most shambolic episodes in sport when “High Noon in Hong Kong” – a boxing extravaganza featuring a WBO heavyweight title fight between the tragic Tommy Morrison and Herbie Hide – was cancelled at the eleventh hour because it ran into financial difficulties.

The show was supposed to be held at Hong Kong Stadium on October 22, 1994, but was canned before the official weigh-in after British sports promoter Barry Hearn withdrew his boxers – Hide and Steve Collins – when their purse could not be guaranteed.

There were others involved in the fiasco ­– a cast of villains but no heroes as it turned out – as the event turned into a spectacular waste of time for all those involved, including the South China Morning Post.

The tragic tale of Tommy Morrison: Drugs, denial and finally death

American promoter Bob Arum refused to stump up the cash to save the event and another promoter who conceived the show, John Daly (of Rumble in the Jungle fame), couldn’t rescue it either, despite sinking US$800,000 of his own money into it.

Local banks refused to give them a line of credit. It left Hong Kong with a black eye thanks to overly ambitious promoters. High Noon promised so much yet failed to deliver.

But would High Noon have been a success had finances been in order? Probably not. It was doomed to failure from the start. The event hardly caught the public’s imagination as evidenced by the 2,000 or so tickets that were sold.

Boxing, apart from a few amateur “smokers” at the time, had never really caught on here and it was wishful thinking 40,000 fans would fill Hong Kong Stadium.

Even an Anthony Joshua v Deontay Wilder world heavyweight title fight, which would easily pack Wembley Stadium, would struggle to fill seats at the So Kon Po venue in 2017.

Why? Hong Kong just isn’t one of the fight capitals of the world, restricted to 8,000-plus crowds that only Rex Tso can draw.

But what if the fight did occur? Morrison v Hide would have been a great fight back in the day.

Morrison had co-starred with Sylvester Stallone in Rocky V and was an established name in the division; Hide was the 23-year-old opponent, who was 26-0-0 with 25 knockouts at the time of the fight.

There’s been a lot of interest in Morrison again with the new ESPN documentary “Tommy” following his remarkable rise to his tragic fall. Back in 1994, he charmed the Hong Kong media with his good looks and friendly manner.

Morrison, aka The Duke, was 41-2-1 with 35 KOs with several noteworthy victories under his belt with wins against Donovan “Razor” Ruddock and even George Foreman.

When an event of High Noon’s magnitude gets cancelled, somebody gets hurt and the biggest victims were the boxers, none so much as Morrison.

Morrison had flown all the way from his hometown of Jay in Oklahoma to Hong Kong, ready to snatch Hide’s WBO title before he found all his training come to zilch.

The other heavyweight match-up in Hong Kong was supposed to a heavyweight contest between Britain’s Frank Bruno and American Ray Mercer.

Bruno was left seething by the sudden cancellation as promoters blamed one another but not themselves.

“It’s tough for all the fighters, and for the people who worked five days a week to afford to come over here and support us. It’s disgusting. It’s staggering,” said Bruno.

Boxing is a dirty business as they say and Morrison, who was only 25 at the time, looked primed to regain the title he had lost dramatically two years earlier to London-born American Michael Bentt.

“This is a very important fight for me,” Morrison told the Post a few days before given the bad news. “I always fight at a good level when I know my opponents are good.”

We never got to see how good Morrison, a powerful hitter with a vicious left hook, was at the time and Hong Kong was never again considered a boxing venue for major championship fights again with anything more ambitious than a Rex Tso super flyweight contest.