The antibody test, however, is standard, a fact that may prove fatal to Morrison’s comeback. (He has been cleared for only one bout thus far—in West Virginia, a state that doesn’t require supervised blood tests—and he won in a second-round knockout.) Once failed, the test can never be passed. The blood will always harbor the antibody. “All that antibody test does is pick up a protein,” Morrison contends. “You can test positive if your bagel had poppy seeds in it.”

“It’ll all come out,” he assures me as he takes a breather at a North Phoenix health club. Morrison came here a year ago—he’d run out of money and had been working construction for his father back in Oklahoma—and he’s sweated out the past 11 months in this gym and the adjoining boxing studio, owned by Munoz. Morrison fractured a bone in Munoz’s left hand not long ago, despite the inch-thick trainer’s pad Munoz was wearing. “It’s like they say about heavyweights,” Munoz avers. “The punch is the last thing that goes.”

Morrison trains as if his life depends on it: AIDS patients look ill; he looks like a body-builder—from the waist up, at least. He has the weird, top-heavy look of a genie emerging from a lamp: a huge, well-cut boxer’s torso atop sinewy distance runner’s legs that taper down to the tiniest little ankles.

A gym-rat milf comes by, looking Morrison over none too subtly, then leaves unacknowledged. Before the diagnosis, Morrison would have sex with three women a day. Part of his training routine. “Eight years running,” he says, sucking down a thick white drink. TCBY is tattooed on his right arm, and I ask if he’s drinking yogurt. “What the fuck are you talking about? That’s not a Y-Y!” Morrison says. “It’s a thunderbolt.”

Ahh. TCB thunderbolt. Elvis’ personal motto: “Taking Care of Business in a Flash.” Morrison has the King everywhere. In his mouth: The cap on his right molar is a tiny Elvis. On his ass: Morrison drops his Speedos to model a three-color portrait of early-Vegas Elvis on his right cheek. the king and i is inscribed below a hip bone pockmarked with what may be the tracks of a decade of juicing. Beneath it is the legend “1935—?”

Elvis Presley never died. Tommy Morrison never had HIV.


Morrison can still remember February 10, 1996, a fight day. At 45-3-1 with 39 KOs, he was a Great White Hope who loved fighting black men. (“All so tough till you hurt ’em once,” he says. “Then you own ’em.”) He remembers the terse voice of Tony Holden, his trainer at the time. “I don’t know how else to tell you,” Holden said. “Your test came up HIV-positive.”

In three hours, Morrison was due in the ring for a tune-up against Arthur Weathers, the first in a three-fight, $38.5 million deal he’d just signed with Don King. It would have led to Mike Tyson, at the time just out of prison, and then, potentially, a shot at the Unified World Championship, which was worth hundreds of millions.