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heavyweight champion fights HIV-positive status

heavyweight champion fights HIV-positive status

Former WBO heavyweight champion Tommy Morrison is staging a comeback, saying Tuesday that a positive HIV test that ended his career more than a decade ago was inaccurate.

''I'm negative and I've always been negative, and that should be the end of it,'' Morrison said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press. The 38-year-old will face John Castle in a four-round fight Thursday at Mountaineer Racetrack and Gaming Resort in Chester, W.Va. ''The rug was yanked out from under my feet by a misdiagnosis,'' he said. ''All I want to do is fight.... It's unfinished business.''

State athletic commissioner Steve Allred said Tuesday he approved Morrison's participation in the fight after reviewing medical records and consulting with the Association of Boxing Commissions' medical review committee. Allred said confidentiality laws prevent him from discussing Morrison's medical history or the records he reviewed.

West Virginia does not have mandatory blood testing for boxers. ''I assure you that West Virginia is doing due diligence to make sure everyone who steps into the ring is healthy,'' Allred said. Morrison (46-3) and Castle (4-2) square off in one of seven bouts scheduled at Mountaineer.

Morrison won the WBO title in 1993 by outpointing George Foreman. He lost it later that year. Morrison, who was featured in the movie Rocky V, also served a couple of years in an Arkansas prison on drug and weapons charges.

He announced he had human immunodeficiency virus in February 1996 and last fought in Japan that November, knocking out Marcus Rhode in the first round. Morrison said Tuesday that he has taken several HIV tests while preparing for his comeback and all have been negative.

He has signed a contract with Top Rank promoters for at least eight fights this year. ''I have no doubt I'll be a better fighter than I ever was before,'' he said. ''I am more relaxed. Something that comes along with age causes you to simmer a bit.'' (AP)

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