Morton doesn’t last one round

Times Staff Writer

Former USC and NFL receiver Johnny Morton suffered a devastating, first-round knockout in his mixed martial arts debut Saturday night at the Coliseum, was taken to a hospital for observation and then refused to supply a urine sample for drug testing.

Morton has been suspended, according to Armando Garcia, executive director of the California State Athletic Commission.

Morton was unavailable for comment.

In the two featured bouts of the night, Royce Gracie (14-3-3) avenged his loss to Kazushi Sakuraba (21-10-1) seven years ago by winning an unanimous decision in a three-round middleweight match, and super-heavyweight Brock Lesnar, in his pro debut, beat Min Soo Kim (2-6) at the 1:09 mark of the first round of a scheduled three-rounder when Kim tapped out after repeated strikes.


Kim proved a poor substitute for Hong Man Choi, Lesnar’s original opponent, who failed to pass his physical.

The Gracie-Sakuraba match featured little action, drawing heavy boos from the crowd, which was estimated at 54,000 by promoters.

Several other officials, including Garcia and promoter Gary Shaw, estimated it at closer to 20,000 to 30,000.

That would include complimentary tickets.

Morton, 35, was taken by ambulance to California Hospital for observation after being knocked out 38 seconds into his match against Bernard Ackah.

“He is fine, alert and everything is moving normally. Obviously he is disappointed,” Garcia said after receiving the report on Morton’s examination and before learning of his refusal to submit to a drug test.

Facing Ackah, a fighter from the Ivory Coast who was in his second pro match after winning his debut by knockout, Morton walked into a right hand that landed on his left temple, sending him crashing to canvas so forcefully that his head bounced off the surface.

Morton, apparently unconscious when medical personnel got to him, was placed in a neck splint and put on a stretcher.

But by the time he was carried out of the ring, he had recovered enough to flash the victory sign to the appreciative crowd.

“How many people who would do what he did,” said Mike Guymon, Morton’s trainer, “stepping into the NFL of MMA and putting it all on the line?”

Morton trained for two months for this fight. Was that long enough, Guymon, an MMA fighter himself, was asked.

“When you want to jump into something, you jump into something,” he said. “I’ve been fighting for 10 years and I still don’t feel like I’m prepared.”

Said Ackah of Morton, “He needs more experience.”

The event was promoted by Fighting Entertainment Group, a Japanese company, and included fighters promoted by ProElite, and shown for the first hour on Showtime, with the remainder of the card on pay-per-view.

Sadaharu Tanikawa, chief executive of FEG, said at a Friday news conference that he had sold 100,000 tickets, but wasn’t sure how many people would show up.

Shaw, promoter for ProElite, said anything smaller than a crowd of 20,000 would be a disappointment.

“Personally,” he said, referring to the Coliseum, “I prefer arenas. I like the closeness, the intimacy, but that’s just me. I think this particular venue is too cavernous.”

The pay-per-view portion of the show began on a farcical note, with a parade of figures carrying a torch around the Coliseum and up the hallowed steps to where the Olympic torch has twice been lit in this historic building.

But instead of Rafer Johnson, the star of this show was Dennis Rodman, for reasons known only to the promoters.