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Boxer Tommy Morrison Begins Comeback

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Boxer Tommy Morrison Begins Comeback

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Boxer Tommy Morrison Begins Comeback

Boxer Tommy Morrison Begins Comeback

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Mike Pesca gets 'up close and personal' with Tommy Morrison.

HIV-positive championship boxer Tommy Morrison began a comeback Thursday night in West Virginia, knocking out his opponent in the second round. Morrison has previously claimed to have been "cured" of his HIV.

LUKE BURBANK, host:

The boxer Tommy Morrison, who you doubtless remember from "Rocky V" - no? Nothing? Okay, he also held a WBO championship at one point and he later made big news when he tested positive for HIV.

Tommy Morrison began a comeback fight last night in West Virginia. He knocked his opponent out in the second round. The fight was of particular interest to NPR's Mike Pesca, who spent a few days with Morrison last year for a profile he did on the fighter. Mike joins me now.

Hi, Mike.

MIKE PESCA: Hey, Luke.

BURBANK: So HIV and boxing - not a combo you'd really imagine. Why was he allowed to fight?

PESCA: The real short answer is that West Virginia doesn't test for HIV, but over the years Tommy Morrison has complicated that answer by spinning a story of his HIV. Sometimes Tommy Morrison says that he had it but he's cured. He has said that in the past. Now he says - his line is that he never had it. It was a false test.

If you ask him, he'll go on about all sorts of conspiracy theories about why people wanted him out of the game, and he also conspiracy theories of how he got HIV. At some point it was promiscuous sex, and he also told me a story about how in his opinion this is maybe how he got it: he did steroids and when the steroid needle broke his skin it caused dead skin tissue and that - you know, it's not really important to get into because no doctor or scientist would give any credence to this. He is not cured. He is just able to live his life and box.

BURBANK: So how did he actually look last night in the fight?

PESCA: Literally, he looks unbelievably muscular and trim, so he's not one of these bloated boxers making a comeback, but I talked to broadcaster Bob Papa, who is in West Virginia, and he said in Morrison's two rounds, which he won, he looked surprisingly winded and that he took too many shots from an opponent who was 4-2, having lost his last two fights for knockouts.

But still, Papa said the national media was interested in the fight.

Mr. BOB PAPA (Broadcaster): You know, America loves to slow down for car wrecks, and we had one guy who 10 years ago tested positive for HIV, and I think half the people were there to see if another calamity would happen.

PESCA: I talked to a doctor with the CDC. He's a top AIDS expert. He says that HIV positive athletes should be allowed to play in their sport. I asked him, well, does that include boxing? And he hesitated, not because of anything to do with HIV. He can't endorse boxing as a doctor.

BURBANK: NPR's Mike Pesca joining us to talk about Tommy Morrison. If you want to hear Mike's great profile of Tommy Morrison, go to NPR.org.

Thanks, Mike.

PESCA: You're welcome, Luke.

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