It didn't seem like much of a gamble. Pick up an easy $1.5 million by fighting lightly regarded Michael Bentt in Tulsa, record yet another knockout before the home-state fans and move on to an already scheduled $8 million payday against WBC heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis in March. That was the plan for Tommy Morrison last Saturday night, and it worked like a charm—at least until 47 seconds into the fight. That's when Bentt found Morrison's jaw with a right hand and dropped the muscular playboy for the first of three opening-round knockdowns.
The end came at 1:33 of the first round, with Morrison's suspect chin once again in glassy fragments. It was only two years ago that his title hopes had seemingly been shattered by a fifth-round knockout loss to Ray Mercer. Yet with careful matchmaking and aggressive promotion, which many detractors said had more to do with Morrison's pigmentation than with his talent, the latest great white hope had reemerged as a marketable contender. His 12-round win over George Foreman in June earned him not only the WBO title but also the megabucks bout with Lewis, a jackpot that was canceled by Bentt. Before the fight Morrison's handlers carefully checked out Bentt's record: 10-1 in five years. Good boxer, no power, no experience, no chin. They should have checked further: In 1985 Bentt's father hit the New York State Lottery for $2 million. Only an idiot would toss $8 million on the table against someone from a family with luck like that. Especially against one who says, "I can never throw the first punch. But when another man strikes me, I am well within my rights to end his life."
Or at least his career.