Yeah....he's kind of crazy these days
Tommy Morrison still insists he can box and doesnt have HIV
By SAM MELLINGER
The Kansas City Star
WICHITA | Tommy Morrison is cutting into a cheap rib eye steak on a plate he has covered in ketchup. The ideas come out between bites. You have to listen carefully. The rough Oklahoma twang will spell out all kinds of ideas, things that would blow your mind if they existed outside his reality.
Telekinesis, for instance. He hasnt quite figured it out, but hed rather be invisible, anyway. Just think of all the stuff he could learn. One time he teleported himself out of a bar, and did you know the human body can re-grow limbs?
His face is worn and his skin sags in places, but he insists hes in the best shape of his life. Hes going to be heavyweight champion again if boxing lets him back in, and this brings up HIV. It always comes back to HIV with Tommy, even over breakfast, so he chops up his $12 steak and eggs and tells you he is the victim of a wild conspiracy.
They stole his career, he says, at least a $38 million contract and who knows how much after that? They stole his good name, too. Made him admit to the world he has HIV. But that was before he found out that HIV doesnt exist. It was invented to control people, he tells you, and he can go on and on about this all day.
He takes another bite and looks at his girlfriend, a woman from England named Trisha.
We have unprotected sex, she says.
Tommy is still chewing, but laughs.
Every day, he says. Were wild.
Five years ago, Tommy told anyone who would listen that he was launching a comeback. He was fit and sharp and seemingly committed, ready to take on the world.
In the time since, hes had only three fights of dubious quality and created a desperate reality consumed with an unwinnable debate against the medical community.
You have to squint hard to see the man who once fought Lennox Lewis and beat George Foreman for the heavyweight championship.
Trisha answers the phone and hears that Tommy didnt show up at the gym today. He is supposed to be here was supposed to be here 15 minutes ago to work out and pose for a photographer.
Trisha doesnt know where he is, but she warns me not to give the photographer Tommys cell phone number. Shes asked why.
Would Mike Tyson give his cell phone number to a photographer? she asks.
Tommy Morrison thinks about that old life sometimes, the one when a comparison to Tysons fame and skills didnt sound so silly. The old life is still vivid in Tommys memory. Back then, he had what felt like an endless supply of money and what looked like an endless supply of women.
He told friends he wanted to be as famous as Elvis, and for a while, boxing was his way. His first fight came when he was 5 years old, on his mothers orders over a Coke at a drive-in movie. Tommy beat up the older boy and realized he found something special.
When he was a teenager he came to Kansas City to train, and the stories are legendary. Westport became something like his playground, his trainer pleading with him to cut the alcohol and drugs, or to have sex with just one woman per day, not three.
Tommy says he was all balls and brawn back then, clubbing opponents on his way up the boxing ladder. Blonde, tan, and built like a brick house, he became a cultural phenomenon. Sylvester Stallone cast him to co-star in Rocky V. The boxing highlight came in 1993, when he beat Foreman for the vacant WBO heavyweight title. This was Tommys masterpiece.
Everyone expected him to trade punches with Foreman, but instead Tommy used his agility to fight at a safe distance and won a unanimous decision. A tattoo on his bicep is a reminder of the day Tommy stood on top of the world.
The rest is a sad fall that began the night of a tune-up fight before a hugely anticipated bout with Tyson. Two hours before a scheduled fight with Arthur Weathers, Tommys manager told him he had failed the prefight blood test. He couldnt fight.
Back home in Oklahoma, a bunch of his buddies sat at a watch party, stunned. Most of them figured it was steroids.
But I thought right off the bat there that he could have HIV, says Brian Elder, a childhood friend. I thought that immediately. I think he had ideas that he had it before then, so it wasnt that big of a shock to him.
For a while, Tommy tried the speaking circuit, talking about the dangers of unprotected sex and HIV. But it didnt feel right to him.
That wasnt the reality he wanted, so he created a new one.
Tommy Morrison figures you wont believe him, but hell tell you anyway about the time he teleported himself out of trouble.
It was in a dark and shady bar in Springfield. Daytime. A group of people sat around a table in the back corner, and Tommy instantly felt like hed walked in on something. He says there was an overwhelming feeling of evil in that room, and he knew he had to get out. So he lowered his head and shut his eyes and when he woke up he was standing outside in bright daylight.
I know it sounds (messed) up, he says. But Ill tell you what, it happened to me. Its real. But things like this dont work for anybody that doesnt believe it.
Tommy has spots all over his hands and arms. Theyre distracting when you meet him. You cant miss them. He blames his boxer puppy. Only the spots arent bite marks or scratches, and so now Tommy says theyre mosquito bites. Mosquitoes love him, he says.
Except its the middle of winter, and the marks look a lot like the HIV symptom of lesions or Kaposis sarcoma.
Tommy wants to talk to you about HIV. Its a farce, he says. An invention by a scientist who wanted to make money, a lie kept alive by a government that wants to scare people. He doesnt have HIV, never did, and besides, its not the deadly disease its been made out to be.
What he says sounds crazy, but there is an obvious and undeniable fact sitting in front of you: Tommy Morrison is still alive and apparently healthy, 15 years after testing positive for HIV. Magic Johnson tested positive five years before Tommy, but Johnson has wealth and the very best medical care.
Tommy isnt broke, exactly, but lives a paycheck-to-paycheck sort of life and says hes never taken any medication for HIV. In fact, he served 14 months in prison for drugs and weapons charges in the early 2000s, talks of past methamphetamine binges, and was arrested on another drug charge as recently as last year. This is not a man who follows doctors orders.
He speaks with such certainty, such conviction, and even has a negative HIV test from last year to show you. That test has been disputed. It could be someone elses blood, and his name is on failed tests, too. Still, its hard not to wonder enough to call a doctor.
Joel Gallant is a professor at Johns Hopkins University and one of the leading HIV specialists in the country. He says there are slow progressers, people who do fine without treatment, so Tommys apparent health doesnt tell you much one way or the other, and that hes not cured; thats not one of the possibilities.
Tommy has been divorced at least twice, and its Trisha now who is by his side every day. They talk about getting married someday, but for now they fight together. She and Tommy look up Gallant on the Internet and send him an e-mail.
They correspond nine times over six hours, Morrison at one point insisting that a poppy-seed bagel could trip an HIV test. Gallant calls it a silly debate and the works of various crackpot former scientists.
He cannot be clearer. Morrison reads something else entirely.
You have just confirmed to me that there does not exist a test that confirms or dispels whether I or anyone has the HIV VIRUS 100%, he writes to Gallant.
If you felt out of options, how would you react? This is Morrisons path.
Tommy Morrison is on time for his second meeting with the photographer. He apologizes for the earlier mix-up, says he got caught up running some errands. Hes exceedingly nice, even charming, but, damn, he forgot his boxing boots at home.
He gets in the car and almost immediately comes back and sticks his head out the window. He cant remember why he left.
Your boots, Tommy, the photographer says.
Right, he says, and scribbles BOOTS on his hand in black ink.
He says hell be back in 20 minutes. It takes an hour.
Tommy Morrison says hes in the best shape of his life. If taken literally, thats ridiculous, of course. He was heavyweight champion of the world at 24 years old and is now 42 with mangled hands and reflexes that he admits arent what they once were.
This isnt the man whose announced comeback five years ago raised at least a curiosity in the boxing world. Muscle memory and natural talent mean he can still beat the stiffs he finds to fight him. The last one came two years ago in Wyoming, a first-round knockout for Morrison that looks staged and sad.
You can watch it by searching for Tommy Morrison fake fight on YouTube.
He has had a handful of fights scheduled and cancelled since. He says he can beat anyone in the heavyweight division, and names the Klitschko brothers specifically. Theyd be easy, Morrison says. All he needs is a chance, for boxing commissions to stop singling him out. He has applied with the Nevada Athletic Commission but is frustrated they ask for additional tests.
He wont do it. Sometimes he says its because other boxers arent required to do the same.
If I do that, thats letting them win, dont you think? he says.
Other times he says its because the tests are meaningless, that they dont detect HIV.
So why would I do that? he says.
In this way, Morrison has built a comfortable and eternal conflict for himself. This is a perpetual fight to prove the unprovable, a man with a scrap of his former name recognition joining whats looked at by most everyone else as a rogue HIV denialist movement.
He speaks passionately, occasionally contradicting himself, but continues to work out and train and find boxing matches in places that will put him in the ring against fighters who look past the potential risk. A scheduled fight next week in Montreal is now likely cancelled.
Fighting is what hes good at, and he figures hes got two more years to be good. Hes assigned a bigger meaning to all of this. Calls it unfinished business, which he thinks will be a good title for his autobiography someday. He wants so badly for everything hes saying to be true, and to him, there is no doubt that it is.
Even if the boxing and medical worlds wont take him seriously, Tommy does, and for now thats all that matters. So hell keep promoting.
Hell keep fighting.
I think about boxing more now. Im better, he says. Theyre not used to that. A white guy that has hand speed, power, charisma, and can talk in complete sentences? (Shoot). Sounds like a gold mine to me.