Morrison hears boos from crowd after first-round KO of Stover

Updated: June 26, 2007, 11:58 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

CAMP VERDE, Ariz. -- Former heavyweight champion Tommy Morrison won his MMA debut but lost the crowd Saturday night.

Tommy Morrison
Josh Murphy/Sherdog.com Tommy Morrison won his MMA debut to the chagrin of the crowd Saturday night.

Fighting in a cage on a clear night in the desert, Morrison knocked out John Stover (7-2) at 2:08 of the first round. Boos rained down as a panting Morrison raised his hand after breaking Stover's nose with a straight right.

Although the unsanctioned bout was fought on an MMA card at Cliff Castle Casino, it had little of the rough-and-tumble associated with the sport, and that may have stoked the ire of the crowd estimated at 2,500.

Stover said he originally agreed to the bout despite a stipulation against grappling, a big disadvantage for the 340-pound Stover, who outweighed Morrison by 125 pounds. But an hour before the fight, Stover said he was told he would not be allowed to strike Morrison with his knees or feet.

That essentially reduced the bout to a boxing match with five-ounce gloves.

"They changed the rules and I just had to roll with it," Stover said. "I did the best I could do."

The 38-year-old Morrison has been attempting a comeback after an 11-year retirement following the discovery that he was HIV positive.

The fight came one day after Morrison's former agent, Randy Lang, told ESPN.com that Morrison is still HIV positive.

Lang, who spent roughly 10 months in Morrison's camp, lodged accusations of possible blood tampering and fraud and said the boxer tested positive for HIV as late as January but still fought a month later in West Virginia -- claims Morrison strongly denies.

"I only know what the doctor told me and what Randy told me -- I am negative," Morrison said. "I went and took all the tests. They told me I am fine, the doctor and Randy. Randy is a greedy person. He got exposed, and now he's trying to hurt me."

McKinn said Morrison did not have to take a blood test for the MMA fight. The bout was staged on the Yavapai-Apache Nation, outside's the state boxing commission's jurisdiction.

Stover said he didn't believe he was taking a risk by taking the bout. He said the promoters provided him "a pile" of paperwork showing that Morrison had not tested positive.

"I don't know how many times I've heard from people that they were afraid to fight him because they don't want to risk it," Stover said. "Well, the only thing they're risking is rumors.

"Some people would be terrified of the rumors, but I gave him a shot."

That was about all Stover was able to give Morrison under the modified rules.

But even with the rules tilted in his favor, Morrison struggled to put away Stover, a 36-year-old sheetrock hanger from Pine Ridge, S.D. Early in the bout, Stover tied Morrison up and ran him into the fence. Morrison looked at the ref, his eyes wide, as Stover threw a series of ineffective right hands at the side of his head.

"I wanted to knee him," Stover said.

Asked how the fight might have gone under traditional MMA rules, Stover said, "If I could have went to the ground, he would have been done in 30 seconds, maybe."

Morrison also wore shoes, which are typically not allowed in MMA competition.

Morrison, still sucking air, was hustled into a minivan without speaking to reporters.

"Obviously, he's got a different attitude towards everything," Stover said. "He's rude. He's obnoxious. He's got a lot over his head right now."

ESPN.com's Elizabeth Merrill and Dan Rafael as well as the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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