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Morrison Testifies in Defense of Tyson

September 24, 1996

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ Tommy Morrison came to heavyweight champion Mike Tyson’s defense Tuesday, testifying that he’d never heard of a boxer making a career-long contract with a trainer.

Morrison, who quit boxing in February after testing positive for HIV but is now eying a comeback, said trainers work for fighters only as long as the boxers are happy with them.

He was brought to the stand as Tyson’s lawyers opened their defense in Kevin Rooney’s $49 million lawsuit. Rooney, fired by Tyson in 1988, is suing for past and projected earnings after claiming he had Tyson’s promise he would remain as trainer as long as Tyson boxed.

Morrison said he had at least four trainers during his eight-year pro career and even tried out Rooney at one point for two weeks. He said he didn’t hire Rooney because the trainer wanted him to move to Catskill, N.Y.

``The fighter is always the boss,″ Morrison said.

Tyson attorney Robert Hirth asked why.

``Because he’s the one taking the punches,″ Morrison replied.

Two former Rooney associates testified against the trainer, both saying Tyson mentor Cus D’Amato told them from a hospital bed that he had real worries about Rooney. D’Amato died before taking any action against Rooney.

Tyson, who testified for five hours Monday, was back in court as a spectator Tuesday. He leaned forward in his seat to watch a taped replay of one of his finest moments, when he knocked out Michael Spinks after 91 seconds in 1988.

Earlier, former amateur boxer Thomas Patti, another D’Amato trainee who once lived with Tyson, testified that he was alarmed by the regression in Tyson’s skills when he saw him train with Rooney for the Spinks fight.

Rooney lawyer Michael Coyle had Patti watch the fight and explain how Tyson erred. Patti said Tyson dropped his hands after a punch several times and failed to move his head _ a trademark of D’Amato’s teaching.

``There were a number of mistakes, in spite of the devastating outcome,″ Patti said.

Patti and Matt Baranski, who worked with Rooney in Tyson’s corner until Rooney was fired, both testified about D’Amato’s misgivings concerning the trainer. Patti said D’Amato told him he was worried about Rooney’s drinking and gambling.

Baranski was the ``cut man″ during Tyson’s fights and said he worked for 10 percent of Rooney’s fee as trainer. Baranski said Rooney reneged on a promise to increase his fee if Tyson became successful and began making more money.

``I found out that I couldn’t trust him,″ Baranski said. ``I just let it go.″

Coyle, however, presented as evidence checks totaling $499,998 from Rooney to Baranski.

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