When Tommy Morrison captured the WBO heavyweight championship with a unanimous decision over George Foreman in 1993, Trey Lippe-Morrison wasn’t watching.
Just 3 at the time, the son of Tommy Morrison was playing with his brother in another room while other members of the family huddled around a television.
“I didn’t really understand what was going on,” Lippe said. “I was too young.”
Nearly 24 years later, Lippe has his own championship aspirations. The 27-year-old heavyweight boxer is 12-0 with 12 knockouts and is quickly gaining acclaim for his punching power and other similarities to his late father.
In his national television debut on Showtime in September, Lippe earned a first-round technical knockout over previously unbeaten heavyweight Ed Latimore (13-1, 7 knockouts). Lippe overpowered his more experienced opponent, twice knocking down Latimore before referee Gary Ritter stopped the fight at the 2:19 mark of the first round.
The performance earned high praise from Lippe’s Hall of Fame trainer, Freddie Roach.
“He is the real deal,” said Roach, who trains the Vinita (Okla.) High School graduate at the famed Wild Card Boxing Club in Los Angeles. “He could always punch, but now he’s boxing. Trey’s becoming a really good fighter. By the time we’re done, I think he’ll be a world champion.”
Lippe and members of his camp realize the road to a possible title bout will be a long one.
A former defensive lineman for the Central Arkansas football team, Lippe has no amateur boxing experience and didn’t turn pro until he was 24. The fight against Latimore was his first against anyone considered a contender.
Lippe’s next challenge comes in the form of a 41-year-old Texas journeyman named Ty Cobb (19-7, 11 KOs). The two heavyweights will meet in a non-televised six-round bout on Saturday at Lippe’s home venue of Buffalo Run Casino in Miami, Okla. A win will likely land Lippe another Showtime fight in February.
“Showtime is very high on Trey,” said promoter Tony Holden, who also directed Morrison’s career. “And you have to look at it from their angle. He might not go far, and it could end any day, like it could for any fighter ... But what if he does make it? They recognize that this kid could become an overnight superstar.”
The marketability is irrefutable. Lippe boasts what Roach calls “elite” power in both hands and the same country-boy good looks as his father, “The Duke,” who co-starred with Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky V.” His pedigree in a heavyweight division devoid of stars makes him one of boxing’s most intriguing prospects.
But living up to his father’s success in the ring will be no easy task.
Morrison finished his professional career with a 48-3-1 record with 42 knockouts and was a two-time world heavyweight champion.
By the time he was Lippe’s age, he had already enjoyed 45 victories and was a household name in the boxing world.
But Morrison’s life was also marked with tragedy. Before turning 28, he was forced to retire from the sport after announcing he had tested positive for HIV. After retirement, Morrison dealt with a variety of legal issues and was sentenced to two years in prison for drugs and weapons charges in 2000.
Morrison eventually denied ever having HIV, although his mother told ESPN in August 2013 that he was suffering from full-blown AIDS. Less than a month later, Morrison died at age 44. His widow, Trisha Morrison, has remained adamant that Tommy never contracted the virus.
Lippe turned to boxing during a crossroads in his own life. His dad was extremely ill, and he had just been kicked off the Central Arkansas football team during his senior year. Lippe had been a starter for the Bears, and he said he had received some attention from NFL scouts.
“I got caught up in the wrong scene,” Lippe said. “I showed up late for team meetings two days in a row, and they kicked me off the team. That was a big eye-opener.”
Holden said Lippe is using boxing as a second chance, and has learned the lessons from the mistakes his father made.
“The majority of his father’s mistakes were having an entourage,” Holden said. “They dragged him out to do things, and Tommy got a lot of the blame for things he wasn’t really a part of. And Tommy made his own mistakes, too.
“When you see Trey, he comes to the fight alone. You don’t see him at the bar with drinks in his hands afterward. He lives a clean life. He also knows that if he’s out at nightclubs and having drinks, people are going to start comparing him to his father. He knows to avoid that.”
Lippe made his pro debut in February 2014 against Kris Renty. His lack of experience showed when was knocked down 10 seconds into the fight, but he recovered and eventually earned a second-round TKO.
“He fought like a Tough Man fighter,” Holden said. “It was bad.”
After his debut, Lippe went through several trainers before finding a home with Roach in 2015.
The trainer for such fighters as Manny Pacquiao has helped Lippe harness his power and develop boxing skills. Sparring against such world-class fighters as former cruiserweight champion Denis Lebedev, Lippe has been forced to learn fast.
Gradually stepping up his competition, Lippe has earned first-round knockouts in nine of his 12 fights. Boxrec.com considers him the No. 51 heavyweight in the world and No. 17 in the United States.
“Trey is still learning,” Holden said. “Tommy was way ahead of Trey, because Tommy started boxing very young. But Trey is training every day at Wild Card with world champions, and he continues to exceed my expectations.
“Tommy’s brother will tell you that Trey has more power than Tommy. Everybody says no way, but it’s true. I’m talking raw power. I’m not talking finesse or boxing ability at this point. But for straight, raw power, Trey has a bit more than Tommy, and he has it in both hands.”
That power, combined with Lippe’s background, could land him some big fights in the near future.
Lippe just wishes his father was around to see them.
“I don’t know what he’d say to me,” Lippe said. “That’s why I wish he was here. I’d love to talk boxing with him. I’m sure he’d be proud.”