Morrison's attempts to continue fighting are familiar story
Jan. 9, 2009
By Norm Frauenheim
Special to CBSSports.com
Tommy Morrison's story has more sequels than Rocky, which included him
in Sylvester Stallone's fifth and most forgettable portrayal of
Hollywood's favorite fighter. The Rocky films are nostalgia, or at
least a way for one of those classic channels to fill a day with a
Tommy Morrison now claims he's HIV-free, but seems reluctant to prove
it. (Getty Images)
It's hard to put a number on how many times Morrison has been in the
news with a variety of familiar explanations about how he is not HIV
positive, as he was first diagnosed before a Las Vegas bout in 1996.
Whatever the number, he is back, back all over again, in headlines
about a proposed fight in Australia. Nervous Aussie medical officials
vow Morrison will only be allowed to fight in Melbourne if he
undergoes a *** test that proves he is HIV free. If that sounds
familiar, it is, and that's the problem.
There have been tests and conflicting reports about whether they were
positive, negative, false-positive, inconclusive or fraudulent since
he underwent a battery of them at a lab in Phoenix before a comeback
victory in February 2007 over somebody named John Castle in West
West ***ia did not require *** tests. Morrison was licensed based
on the results of the Phoenix tests. But that's where it gets
confusing and thoroughly controversial. John Montano, longtime chief
of the Arizona State Boxing Commission, witnessed the tests.
But by law, the results were never disclosed, because they were
supposed to be a step in Morrison's application for an Arizona
license. Morrison withdrew the application. He was supposed to fight
in Phoenix at Dodge Theatre. He was even featured in ads put together
by Phoenix promoter Peter McKinn.
But Morrison, who said he injured a hand, suddenly backed out of the
fight and the application process. He headed to West ***ia, which
reportedly reviewed the Phoenix tests and licensed him because
apparently the documentation said he was HIV free.
But Montano told me for a story published in The Arizona Republic in
June 2007 and again this week that his office has never forwarded the
results of the *** work to West ***ia or any other state,
including Texas, where Morrison was also supposed to fight on a card
in Houston. He didn't, suddenly withdrawing from an advertised bout
amid hazy and unconfirmed reports that he was about to be granted a
Texas license. He never was.
Then, Morrison's former representative, Randy Lang, told me that the
World Boxing Organization's one-time heavyweight champ was still HIV
"Tommy has tested positive for HIV antibodies, and he always has,"
Lang told me for a newspaper story that ran in the Arizona Republic on
June 9, 2007, before Morrison stepped into a mixed martial arts cage
for a bizarre victory on an Indian reservation north of Phoenix.
Lang also alleged fraud in either the documentation or the samples
from tests that Morrison underwent before West ***ia granted him a
license. Morrison angrily countered that Lang had misrepresented
himself as an attorney when he moved to Phoenix in his attempt at a
Amid all the charges and counter-charges, there has been one
consistent thread: Morrison did not fight in a place where *** work
was mandatory. The mixed martial arts mess happened on an Arizona
reservation, Yavapai-Apache, which at the time did not fall under the
Arizona State Boxing Commission's jurisdiction. That meant no ***
test for a Cliff Castle *** bout that included rules rewritten to
accommodate Morrison. He was allowed to wear shoes; his opponent was
He later fought in Mexico, where again *** work was not necessary.
The Association of Boxing Commissions sent a letter to Mexican
authorities, urging that Morrison undergo a supervised *** test. But
there never was one and Morrison went on to win on the Julio Cesar
Chavez Jr.-Jose Celaya undercard in Leon last February.
That brings us to Down Under, where Morrison is scheduled to host a
dinner in April in Melbourne for his foundation, KO AIDs. The
fundraiser has spawned speculation in Aussie newspapers that promoters
have approached Morrison about a bout, possibly against John Hopoate,
a former rugby star and the current Australian heavyweight champ.
But Dr. Lou Lewis, medical consultant for the New South Wales Boxing
Authority, told the Sydney Morning Herald that he would demand that
Morrison undergo an HIV test.
"He'd be tested for HIV one and two, hepatitis B and C," Lewis told
the newspaper. "If he has [HIV] you'd want to protect his opponent.
"Assuming he did have HIV, I would be concerned even sitting ringside.
If he had HIV and was cut, you would be worried about his *** going
into your eyes. A boxer's artery can be severed during a fight and his
*** spurts everywhere. If Morrison had HIV, it's a serious concern
because the nature of boxing -- it is a *** sport -- means it has
the potential to be very risky."
For the past few years, Morrison has argued that tests have evolved
from an outdated method that produced a misdiagnosis about 12 years
ago. I have no idea about the level of sophistication in the test he
might undergo in Australia.
That said, he and McKinn repeatedly promised to undergo the most
sophisticated version in Las Vegas for the Nevada State Athletic
Commission. Once and for all, they said, they would eliminate all the
doubts with the latest in medical technology. But those doubts
persist, because that too has never happened.
Over the years, there has been a well-rehearsed litany of stories from
Morrison. They sound like a multiple-choice mystery. There is
everything from *** theories -- yeah, Morrison once said he
might have been set up by Don King -- to an idea that maybe steroids
resulted in a positive test for the virus that can lead to AIDs. Take
I don't know what to believe. But I don't believe Morrison, even
though I suspect he often believes what he says when he says it. The
most convincing cons are pulled off by the people who, first and
foremost, have conned themselves.
Montano has offered to provide an answer. In 2007, he said he would
give me the results of the *** test for publication if Morrison
waived his legal right to privacy. I wrote about Montano's offer in a
column that also served as a memo to Morrison. Morrison never
Montano repeated that offer this week. He also said he would forward
results of the *** work to Australia if he gets a notarized letter
from Morrison granting him permission to do so. But I'm guessing that
Montano won't get that letter. I'm also guessing that Morrison won't
fight in Australia because of a promised test that would end the