Morrison slated to fight on Chavez Jr.-Celaya undercard
Controversial heavyweight Tommy Morrison, who didn't box for 11 years following a positive HIV test in 1996, will fight the second bout of his comeback on Saturday night in Leon, Mexico, but he will do so to the disapproval of card co-promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank.
Morrison, 39, is scheduled to face Matt Weishaar (3-0-2, 1 KO) of Atchison, Kansas, in a bout that will be televised on a pay-per-view card headlined by junior middleweight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. against Jose Celaya.
Morrison tested positive for HIV, the virus known to cause AIDS, on the eve of a 1996 bout in Las Vegas and was suspended indefinitely nationwide. But last February, Morrison mounted a comeback after several blood tests came up clean. He was granted a license to fight in West Virginia, where he knocked out novice pro John Castle in the second round Feb. 22.
Texas officials cleared Morrison (47-3-1, 41 KOs) for a second fight that was supposed to take place in Houston in April, but the bout was canceled. Texas officials acknowledged that Morrison had been examined and verbally cleared to fight but that he was removed from the card because lab test results did not arrive on time for him to fight.
In June, Morrison won an unsanctioned mixed martial arts bout, fought under amended rules, in Camp Verde, Ariz. Because the fight took place on an Indian reservation, outside of Arizona's boxing commission jurisdiction, Morrison was not required to take a blood test before the fight.
That bout took place a day after Randy Lang, Morrison's former agent, said that Morrison was still HIV positive. Lang asserted that Morrison's previous clean blood tests were a result of fraud and that he had tested positive for HIV in January 2007, just a month before his comeback bout in West Virginia.
Morrison has maintained that Lang's accusations were simply coming from a disgruntled former associate with an axe to grind. The accusations, however, made it even more difficult for Morrison to gain a license elsewhere in the U.S.
Morrison has maintained that he is not infected with HIV and is anxious to continue his career, even if it means going outside the U.S. The lone bout he had following his initial positive HIV test in 1996 was in Japan.
"I decided to give it a final whirl in 2008," Morrison said. "I just started training after the holidays, but I'm at the point where I have to do it now, if I'm going to do it at all. My girlfriend got tired of me sitting around the house all day, and told me to start fighting again, or go get a real job.
"If my hands hold up, I'd like to fight once a month. We'll take it one fight at a time, and see how it goes. But it's sure a good feeling to be back in the ring again."
Arum, however, said he is not happy about Morrison being on the card. He said he didn't know about it until Wednesday morning.
Arum, who was on a cruise last week on vacation, said the fight was made without his knowledge by his head matchmaker, Bruce Trampler, and Fernando Beltran, the Mexican promoter Arum shares many fighters with, including Chavez Jr.
"When you're on a boat, guys do strange things. I found out about it this morning and I'm pissed," Arum said. "But the commitment was made so you have to follow through on it. Bruce and Beltran made a commitment to put him on the card. Nobody told me. I was livid. If you run a legitimate business and an executive and your partner make a commitment to somebody, you have to live up to it. Now I have a choice of killing it or saying hey, if someone from Top Rank and my partner Beltran make a commitment, you have to live up to it.
"Those were the choices I had and I went with the latter. Would I have done this if they consulted me? Absolutely not. I ain't gonna take the rap for this."
Arum insisted that putting Morrison on a card outside of the United States, where there are less stringent rules, was not to get around the difficulties Morrison would have getting licensed by most U.S. commissions. He also insisted it was not publicity ploy to raise awareness of a card aimed primarily at hardcore and Hispanic fans.
"The fight happens to be in Mexico. It's not like we're doing the fight with Morrison to circumvent the rules," Arum said. "If the fans want to see it, let 'em do it. If you were going to watch the show, as I would to see this kid [Chavez] in his development against Celaya, who is a step up, I think that's worthwhile doing. That's why I am doing the show. But anyone who wasn't going to buy it and now you decide to buy it just to see Tommy Morrison, you're out of your mind."
Arum said he asked Trampler and Beltran why they didn't consult with him before adding Morrison to the card.
"The said because I was on a boat," said Arum, his voice raised. "I have to dig further into this as to why I wasn't told. And I don't believe [Top Rank president] Todd [duBoef] was either. People can think I am full of [expletive] about this but I didn't know anything about it. They can think what they want. You don't think I am angry?"
Arum was not ringside at Morrison's fight last year in West Virginia, but he watched a tape of a bout in which Morrison was almost knocked out in the first round before coming back to stop Castle in the second round.
Arum's conclusion about Morrison after watching it?
"That he can't fight anymore," he said.
Arum added that he wouldn't work with Morrison beyond this fight.
"I have no plans for him," Arum said. "And I understand from Bruce that he is going overseas to fight in New Zealand [after this fight]."
Dan Rafael is boxing writer for ESPN.com.