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Morrison Vows ‘One Last Fight’

September 19, 1996

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ HIV-infected heavyweight Tommy Morrison vowed Thursday to return to the ring for ``one last fight,″ just seven months after announcing he would never box again.

Morrison has no date, no site and no opponent but said he would fight to raise money to help children infected with the AIDS virus.

``I know there’s a lot people out there who probably are not going to like what I’m doing,″ Morrison said. ``But they will have to listen to what I have to say.″

His announcement came in the same Tulsa hotel where in February he confirmed in a shaky voice that he had tested positive for the AIDS virus and would retire with a 45-3-1 record.

At the time, the 27-year-old Oklahoma native said he likely contracted the virus through promiscuous sex but also raised the possibility of having been infected during a bloody bout.

Morrison said he now ``firmly″ believes that HIV cannot be transmitted during a fight.

``There has never been one documented case in boxing history that this has ever happened,″ he said. ``Based upon this fact, I have decided to enter the ring for one last fight.″

Morrison’s lawyer, Stuart Campbell, said ``a number of fighters″ had expressed interest in fighting Morrison. He pointed to comments in the media by a former opponent, Ross Puritty, as an example.

``I think HIV is not as easy to catch as everyone says it is,″ Puritty told the Tulsa World. ``I don’t plan to have sex with the guy. If the money is right, I’ll fight anybody.″

Campbell said some of the fighters expressing interest were either ranked currently or had been ranked. He would not identify them. Campbell also advised Morrison not to answer any questions from the media.

At least one boxer expressed concerns about fighting an HIV-infected opponent.

``No I wouldn’t fight him for medical reasons,″ said recently retired heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. ``If he didn’t have HIV, I’d come out of retirement and kick his behind in a second.″

Morrison’s longtime promoter, Tony Holden, also has misgivings about a comeback. Holden did not attend the news conference and has not committed to promote any fight, which likely will take place by next spring.

``I personally think it was premature,″ Holden said. ``If I was sure that HIV could not be spread (in the ring) or even had a lot research pointing that direction,″ he would promote the fight. ``I just need to talk to some doctors.″

Questions also remain about where Morrison would even be allowed to fight.

The national Centers for Disease Control have received no reports of HIV transmission through athletics. But Morrison’s positive test prompted boxing officials nationwide to call for mandatory HIV testing.

At that time only Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington and the territory of Puerto Rico required the testing. Since then, at least four other states, including New York and New Jersey, have begun mandating HIV testing.

``I very much respect Tommy Morrison,″ said Marc Ratner, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. ``But our policy and laws are very very clear on this.

``He cannot fight in Nevada,″ he said.

Morrison learned he had the virus after a test came back positive before February’s scheduled fight against Arthur Weathers in Las Vegas. Oklahoma boxing officials said he remains on medical suspension in Nevada.

``We would have to honor that,″ said Becki Andre of the Oklahoma’s Professional Boxing Advisory Board.

Morrison said his visits with children who have the virus and the need to raise adequate funds to help them through his Knockout AIDS Foundation prompted his decision to fight again.

``I have seen them rejected, shunned in their communities and schools,″ Morrison said, pausing to swallow hard. ``Being rejected is probably more emotional than actually having the virus itself.″

Holden would not say how much money has been raised by the foundation but said no major fund drives have been held.

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