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New Opponent Found For Tommy Morrison

October 30, 1996

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A new opponent was found today for HIV-infected heavyweight Tommy Morrison, once-beaten Marcus Rhode.

Anthony Cooks, who was scheduled to fight Morrison in Tokyo this weekend, was wanted by law enforcement authorities in Oklahoma and, according to promoter Ron Weathers, was on his way back to that state.

Police in Okmulgee, Okla., issued a warrant for Cooks on Tuesday on a complaint he raped a 15-year-old girl Oct. 19.

KOTV in Tulsa reported that another arrest warrant was issued Monday after Cooks failed to appear for a jury trial on a charge of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana.

Officers in Tulsa and Oklahoma City were aiding in the search for Cooks, who served 18 months in prison for receiving stolen property.

``I talked to (Cooks) last night,″ Weathers said at a news conference today at a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport. ``I talked to the sheriff’s department. This was a total surprise to me. I don’t know if they have a case or they don’t have a case.

``(Cooks) is in transit, supposedly. I’m sure he is. We bought the ticket. Let’s not jump to conclusions, we don’t know what’s involved.

``(Cooks) said, `That’s just not true,′ about the rape. He was begging me to give him a chance to straight this thing out. I said I can’t, the fight is four days away.″

Rhode, 24, is 15-1 with 15 knockouts, according to the promoter. He is from St. Joseph, Mo.

``He’s a much better fighter than Cooks,″ Weathers said. ``He’s a big, strong guy.″

Hours before the arrest warrants were made public, Cooks participated in a conference call to discuss the bout with Morrison.

Cooks, 31, of Muskogee, Okla., said he was fighting the former heavyweight contender for the money.

``A lot of people have been saying I’m crazy to fight, but I need the fight, I need the money,″ Cooks said.

Cooks, who said his record is 11-5, wouldn’t disclose his purse. But he said it would be more than his biggest payday to date, the $15,000 he got when he was stopped by David Tua in the first round July 21.

Weathers said today that Cooks was to earn $25,000 and Rhode will earn a little more than that.

Morrison said today he found out Tuesday about the situation with Cooks.

``We don’t want the fight tainted in any way with something negative,″ Morrison said. ``I said, `Let’s get someone else.′ That’s what happened.″

The fight will be the first for Morrison since he was stopped by Lennox Lewis in the sixth round on Oct. 7, 1995. Morrison learned he was HIV-positive in February.

Frank Garza, who is scheduled to referee the bout in Japan, said he isn’t worried about his safety. He plans to wear latex gloves and is considering wearing goggles.

``I have no fear with proper protection and proper procedures,″ Garza said.

Garza said he is a former member of the Michigan boxing commission and has attended several boxing seminars on AIDS.

``There has never been a documented case of boxer transmitting HIV to another boxer,″ he said.

Update hourly