TOKYO -- George Foreman was supposed to be too old and too fat to box. Tommy Morrison, some said, should not fight because he is infected with the virus that causes AIDS.
But the two heavyweights overcame their doubters, at least for the moment, winning convincing victories over clearly overmatched opponents in Tokyo yesterday.
The 47-year-old, 253-pound Foreman bested Crawford Grimsley, a 34-year-old former kick boxer, by a unanimous decision.
Morrison, on the undercard, used powerful overhand rights to deck little-known Marcus Rhode three times in the first round, winning a mere 1 minute, 38 seconds after the opening bell.
Morrison, whose infection with HIV was discovered in February, said this fight will make it more acceptable for HIV-positive boxers to fight by showing people that it is "not such a big deal."
"This is a dangerous thing, no doubt about it," he said. "But we're trying to prove to people that it can be a positive thing as well, and I think we did that."
His opponent agreed, saying he had never been worried about becoming infected.
"It was all blown out of proportion," said the 24-year-old Rhode (15-1), who was a last-minute stand-in after Morrison's scheduled opponent, Anthony Cooks, was arrested on rape charges in Oklahoma. "We were well-educated even before the Tommy Morrison incident about how hard it is to get HIV from boxing."
Morrison suggested he would like Foreman to be his next opponent. The two fought in 1993, with Morrison winning by decision.
Foreman said he was not averse to a rematch, and he defended Morrison's right to box.
"Tommy Morrison did something very important today," Foreman said. "He stepped in the ring and executed his profession. No one can ever say now 'what if' or 'maybe' or 'he should' or 'he shouldn't.' It's done now. Now it's time for someone else to come and do it, but he's already stepped in, the water's fine and nobody can take that away from boxing."
Foreman also executed his profession against Grimsley, who was 20-0 with 18 knockouts against weak opponents. The 237-pound Grimsley is nicknamed "Terminator" because of his passing resemblance to Arnold Schwarzenegger, but he backpedaled constantly to stay out of Foreman's way.
"It seems that the younger fellows, they love to run from me," Foreman (75-4) said from the ring after his 12-round victory.
Foreman said he intends to keep fighting, provided the money is right. His Tokyo take is estimated at $5 million.
The fights attracted little attention here. With ticket prices ranging from about $90 to more than $800, the roughly 6,000-seat arena near Tokyo Disneyland was half-empty; the bouts were really aimed at a Saturday night pay-per-view audience in the United States.
Earlier in the night, heavyweight Alonzo Highsmith stopped fellow former NFL player Mark Gastineau in the second round.
Pub Date: 11/04/96