Tommy "The Machine" Gunn, also nicknamed the Clone Ranger by the press is a deuteragonist and later antagonist in Rocky V. He was a boxer and former world heavyweight champion. He, at first, was Rocky's student, but after George Washington Duke paid him to work for him, he became Duke's student. He was played by the late Tommy Morrison who was also a professional boxer. His relationship with Duke is similar to that of Don King and Mike Tyson.
Tommy Gunn was a young fighter from Oklahoma, who came to Philadelphia to seek out a down-and-out Rocky Balboa, hoping for a chance to be taught boxing greatness from the man himself. As Gunn explained, he came from a broken home in Oklahoma, and had nothing but the clothes on his back. He claims that the first man that he ever knocked out was his father, who apparently was an alcoholic. Tommy's amateur record was 45-0.
Despite a poor first impression in Mighty Mick's Gym, he asked Rocky to become his manager and trainer. Holding a perfect record of eight fights fought and won, he held potential and knew it, and hoped that Rocky would help him get as far as becoming the new champion. Rocky was hesitant at first, but eventually not only accepted to manage him, but allowed him to stay with his family.
Thanks to Rocky's managing, Tommy's great talent was sharpened, and Tommy won 22 consecutive fights with great success; the first eight on his own, and between 1986 to early 1990, won the others with the help of Rocky. However, as he climbed the ladder of success, he took notice that he was almost always praised indirectly through Rocky, such as sports magazine covers referring to him as "Rocky's Gunn." He was aware that he was living in his shadow, and felt he was gaining no fame of his own, increasingly becoming frustrated.
Less-than-reputable promoter George Washington Duke approached Tommy eventually, promising him the fame and riches he couldn't get from being with Rocky, and having noticed that no formal papers were signed between the pair, Duke signed Tommy in for himself.
Duke finally allowed Tommy what he wanted: a shot at the title. After a somewhat short and non-spectacular battle between he and Union Cane, Tommy won and became champion, but the crowd rejected him, praising Rocky instead, as Tommy did not fight with the heart and passion that Rocky did, and as the media later criticized him for, he seemingly won the belt with no difficulty or struggle, saying that Union Cane wasn't close to the Boxers Rocky had to face. He was then challenged by journalists and sports critics to "fight a real fighter this time." It is also noteworthy to mention that while Rocky trained him to become the fighter that he is, Tommy gave him no credit upon his victory and thanked Duke instead, which did not help him capture the crowd.
Expressing his anger to Duke over everyone's crude reaction towards his victory, the latter told him that to get the respect he wants so much, he had to drag Rocky into the ring through any means and beat him. Duke kept insisting that Balboa had to be humiliated and insulted, and goaded into fighting.
Later that night, Duke and Tommy, along with a small camera crew, went after Rocky in the city, challenging him to fight with Tommy. Duke's scheme went completely wrong when Tommy, in a fit of anger, punched down Rocky's brother-in-law, Paulie Pennino, who began criticising him for treating Rocky so bad and even betraying him, as he was the one who brought him to victory. Rocky's reaction to this act was to challenge Tommy to try knocking him down now, adding that "his ring's outside."
A heated street fight triggered between the two former friends. Rocky used his street fight skills to beat Tommy. Duke told him during the fight with Rocky "If you lose, you're finished.". Despite being the Heavyweight Champion, the shame of being involved in a street fight with his former trainer would have had a negative impact on his career, and after the fight, Duke dumped Gunn who was picked up by the police. Subsequently, without the training of Rocky or the protection of Duke, the Heavyweight Champion title was stripped from Gunn after losing that street fight against Rocky, and refusing to defend his title. His world title was then retaken by Union Cane.
After Rocky V
After a short break from boxing, Tommy Gunn attempted to regain his world title from Union Cane. However because of his lack of training and years on inexperience, Cane knocked Tommy out in the twelfth and final round after a long, gruelling fight. After the fight, Tommy said goodbye to boxing for good.
Behind the Scenes
- There is a directors cut that features an alternate version of Tommy and Rocky's fight. After everyone goes outside expecting a fight, Rocky argues with a spectator who wants to see Rocky "teach Tommy a lesson." Rocky yells to the fight-hungry crowd they know nothing about this. Rocky tells Tommy he cares about him more than George Duke ever will. Tommy, enraged, attacks Rocky. Rocky has a different vision with Mickey, then gets up and the street fight continues normally. After knocking Tommy down, Rocky tries to tell him it's over. Tommy still gets up and charges at Rocky. Finally, after Rocky punches Tommy against the bus, he offers him his hand. Tommy accepts it. A bystander asks Tommy for his autograph.