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Tue, July 16

Former boxing champ makes MMA debut
Tommy Morrison to fight John Stover at Cliff Castle Casino June 9

Some are skeptical, some insult the idea and some applaud the effort. In any case, wherever your opinions lie, former World Boxing Organization heavyweight champion Tommy "The Duke" Morrison will be fighting for the second time after a 10-year hiatus to prove to the world that he is back and in a big way.

Saturday, June 9, the grand-nephew of John Wayne and a former heavyweight title holder will face off against a 340-pound Mixed Martial Arts fighter, John 'The Jackhammer' Stover, at Cliff Castle Casino, this time in a cage, to begins the second part of his career.

This time around, now 38 years old, Morrison hopes MMA will catapult him back to his boxing roots; somewhere he insists he should have never left. And regarding his age, Morrison said "I am old enough to know better and too young to resist."

"The bottom line is that I am glad to be back and doing what I am supposed to be doing," said Morrison. "I am glad to have my livelihood back."

Morrison was at the top of the boxing world in 1996 when he tested positive for HIV in Las Vegas, Nev. His promising career included a win over legendary George Foreman and a role in Rocky V with Sylvester Stallone His career boxing record is an impressive record of 46-3-1.

But at the age of 27, his career came crashing down when he was forced to retire from his boxing carrier with the news that he was HIV positive. He was tested a month later and was told that the test was again positive.

For the next 10 years, Morrison created an AIDS Foundation, got into some legal trouble and raised children. Besides all that, he never gave up on the dream of becoming something he just may have been destined to become ... a world championship fighter.

"For the past 10 years I have been thinking about a comeback," said Morrison. "I am a very visual person. I contemplated making a comeback."

Then, Morrison says that his tests began to come back negative. He began doing research on HIV, testing procedures, false positives and whatnot.

"Did you know that poppy seeds can give you a false positive for Hepatitis C and HIV?" Morrison asked. He ultimately concluded that he wasn't, and isn't, infected with HIV.

Despite his convictions that he is free from any deadly virus, the bad stuff is easier to believe and his journey back into the ring has been a tough one, wrought with opposition from medical professionals, boxing professionals and would-be opponents who don't want to risk it.

But, in February, things began to look up. Morrison was tested and came up negative for HIV in Phoenix. This resulted in his first fight in over 10-years against John Castle on Feb. 22. Morrison defeated Castle with a knockout in the second round.

Morrison looks at this chance as a new beginning. So with a record of 1-0-0, he is taking on his newest opponent in the cage where he hopes to improve his new career record to 2-0-0.

In a couple of weeks, after this fight, Morrison will travel back to where this all started, back to Las Vegas to get tested again. This time, he hopes, the test will say what it should have all along ... negative. With a negative result, Morrison is excited about the possibilities of being able to get back to what he knows best ... boxing.

"Well, I am going to go to Vegas and take this test," said Morrison. "Then we will approach it on a wider spectrum and get the press involved. I can re-enter the sport the same way I left it 10-years ago with a big press conference. I can put it to rest and go on down the road and people can go on with their business. Until then, we have to bend whichever way we can without breaking."

That way is in MMA, in which Morrison is competing in a stand-up, striking match. He won't be using his feet or wrestling on the ground. His main focus is a lot like his boxing style and the training isn't much different. But this way of fighting isn't his "forever" career choice.

"This is not my career, this is an opportunity to polish my skills and knock off rust while I make a little money," said Morrison. "This is not going to be something I am going to do a lot of."

Because of course, his ultimate goal is to become a world championship boxer.

"The timing is the essence of life; I think it's perfect timing. We don't have a heavyweight champion in the United States," said Morrison. "I think it's a great time for me to come back. I think I am going to make some waves. We're going to breathe a breath of fresh air and get you people excited about it [boxing] again."

Morrison will battle along with other fighters Friday night at Cliff Castle Casino in the Stargazer Pavilion. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. More information about the fights are available online at www.cliffcastlecasino.net or call the casino at 567-7999. Ticket prices: Reserved seating $100, $60, $40, General Admission $25.

Also on the fight ticket are: UFC Hall of Fame Superstar Dan "The Beast" Severn fighting Victor "Vicious" Vincelette, Bob "The Phenom" Calnin vs. Steven "The Razor" Sharp for the WFC Lightweight Title Championship, Tim "The Pimp" Peacock, Robert "Poundin' Puerto Rican" Maldonado, Ryan "Darth" Bader, John "Slaughterhouse" Sargent, Dean Sanchez, Travous Degroat, Rosco McClellan, Tim Carey, Levi Lalonde, and more.

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