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HIV-Infected Morrison Knocks Out Rhode in First Round

November 3, 1996 GMT

URAYASU, Japan (AP) _ HIV-infected boxer Tommy Morrison made quick and easy work of last-minute opponent Marcus Rhode with a knockout a mere one minute, 38 seconds into the first round of a bloodless fight Sunday.

The bout marked former heavyweight champion Morrison’s first time back in the ring since announcing in February he had contracted the AIDS-causing virus.

``I’m trying to get the message out as a boxer, trying to erase the fear of AIDS,″ Morrison said at ringside moments after beating Rhode (15-1) of St. Joseph, Mo.

The Jay, Oklahoma, native barely had time to break to a sweat, keeping Rhode off-balance from the moment he stepped out of his corner.

The match was an undercard to an IBU heavyweight championship match scheduled later in the day between George Foreman and Crawford Grimsley.

Nine months ago, when Morrison (46-3-1) left boxing after testing positive for the HIV virus, he had said he believed he may have contracted it from blood in the ring.

But he soon changed his mind, saying that transmitting the AIDS-causing virus in a boxing match was unlikely despite possible blood contact, and announced he would return to the ring to raise money for charity.

Sunday’s fight was held on condition it be stopped at the first sight of blood.

It was expected to raise as much as $500,000 for Morrison’s Knockout AIDS Foundation, which helps children with AIDS.

``I never thought the fight would be dangerous,″ said spectator Yoshihito Saitoh, 30. ``It doesn’t seem likely that you could catch AIDS in a regulated match.″

It is unlikely it could have been held in the United States, as major boxing states would not license Morrison. The national Centers for Disease Control says no cases of HIV transmission through sports have ever been confirmed.

While boxers are more likely to be bloodied during competition, ``it would take quantity and duration″ of exposure to the virus for possible transmission, according to CDC spokeswoman Michele Bond.

Japan has no rules to prevent HIV-positive boxers from fighting.

In other undercard bouts:

_ Sergio Reyes (11-3) retired 24 seconds into the 10th round to give Orlando Canizales (43-3-1) the IBA featherweight world title.

_ Still undefeated heavyweight Alonzo Highsmith (16-0-1) made quick work of fellow former National Football League player Mark Gastineau (15-2), winning 20 seconds into the second round. Gastineau was awkward from the bell, taking two falls in the first round.

_ In women’s boxing, Valerie Wiet (35-5) of France stopped American Mary Ann Almager (8-1) 51 seconds into the 9th round to seize the WIBF welterweight title match.

Alex Stewart of Safety Harbor, Fla., was to face Craig Petersen of New Zealand in a heavyweight 10-round match later in the program.