Fugitive Ready to Fight HIV-Positive Morrison

LOS ANGELES -- Think boxing has exhausted its supply of controversy, confusion and craziness? Wait until Sunday.

If a heavyweight fight between two Oklahomans goes off as scheduled that day in Tokyo, there will be a fighter in one corner who has tested HIV-positive. In the other corner will be a fighter who has two arrest warrants out for him, one for rape and the other on drug charges.

In between them will be a referee possibly wearing protective goggles.

And ringside will be a promoter who didn't even know about the HIV results until a few days ago. And you thought Rocky movies were unbelievable.

The strange saga of Tommy Morrison, who learned he was HIV-positive in February, took yet another weird turn when his opponent for Sunday, Anthony Cooks, turned out to be a fugitive from justice.

Police in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, issued a warrant Tuesday for Cooks on a complaint he raped a 15-year-old girl Oct. 19. KOTV in Tulsa reported that another warrant was issued Monday after Cooks failed to appear last week for a jury trial on a charge of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana.

Okmulgee police said he was not in custody Tuesday night. Officers in Tulsa and Oklahoma City were helping look for him. They should have been looking in Los Angeles, where Cooks held a pre-fight news conference by phone Tuesday morning.

This latest obstacle in Morrison's long and winding road back into the ring doesn't appear to be enough to cancel the fight, which will be on the undercard of a main event pitting George Foreman against unheralded Crawford Grimsley.

The Japanese promoter of the fight told a Los Angeles Times reporter that he didn't know Morrison was HIV-positive.

The third man in the ring Sunday, referee Frank Garza, says he is "strongly considering'' wearing goggles for protection against Morrison.

But, Garza added, "I have absolutely no fear of anything happening ... There has never been a documented case of a boxer transmitting HIV to another boxer.''

And how does Cooks feel about facing a man with HIV?

Hours before the police announced they were on his trail, Cooks took a fatalistic approach about contracting the disease.

"If it's meant to be, it's meant to be,'' Cooks said. "I could get it outside the ring just as easily.'' Cooks, 31, who was released from an Oklahoma prison 18 months ago after serving a year and a half for receiving stolen property, admits friends have been advising him against facing Morrison.

So why is Cooks ignoring that advice?

"I need the fight. I need the money,'' he said. "I'm going out there to throw body and head shots. I'm going out there like it's a regular fight. Hopefully, we won't get no blood. Hopefully, we'll have a good, clean fight with no cuts.''