This Bout Needs No Fanfare


You know how all the hype and hoopla around a major boxing match can be. The more glitz, the better.

If the fight is any fight at all, workouts have to be conducted in hotels with fountains and doormen and sweeping staircases. The ring has to be in a ballroom with chandeliers.

You don’t find such things in San Diego. The hotels are there, to be sure, but the boxing matches are not. San Diego usually gets vague state championships for vague state federations with obscure boxers who are probably at the peak of their popularity.


It’s a little different this week.

San Diego has a boxing happening in its midst.

And there was Terry Norris, an adopted son, dancing in a ring in a downtown hotel with a fountain, doorman and sweeping staircase in a ballroom with chandeliers.

Norris would go through 18 minutes of sparring, 18 minutes of shadow boxing and 12 minutes of jumping rope as he wrapped up his last serious preparation for the super welterweight championship fight against Brett Lally on Saturday night at the Sports Arena.

Dan Goossen, the president of Ten Goose Boxing Inc., did “play-by-play” on a microphone and a crowd of more than 100 sat behind velvet ropes and watched the defending champion at work.

Indeed, Norris does most of his pre-fight preparations in this neighborhood, but never in public. He usually works at manager Joe Sayatovich’s hideout in Campo, which is about as easy to find as Jimmy Hoffa.

But this was special. This was Norris’ first title defense in San Diego.

Norris won the title from John (The Beast) Mugabi in 1990 and has defended it against Rene Jacquot in Paris, Sugar Ray Leonard in New York and Donald Curry in Palm Springs. Obviously, he was getting closer and closer to home all the time.

Now he is here . . . and excited about it.

“This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said, “and I’m glad I’ve gotten the chance.”

He did not exactly play with or to the crowd during the workout. In fact, he hardly acknowledged its existence. He seemed very intense and focused, smiling occasionally while shadow-boxing or jumping rope. There was business at hand.

However, this is far from an aloof young man. He likes these public sessions because he likes being close to the public. He actually sounds like it would be silly not to.

It has to do with recognition, not just of his considerable skills but . . . his face.

“Finally,” he said, “Terry’s getting the recognition he deserves. When he walks outside, people know Terry Norris. I’m actually hoping for more of that.”

Huh? Aren’t star athletes almost reclusively protective of their time away from work?

“The money’s good,” Norris said, “and I love boxing, but I love recognition and I love the public. Being recognized doesn’t bother me, because it’s what I box for. That’s what it’s all about for me. Guys who hide from the public are wrong.”

And there’s more to being recognized that the ego boost of signing autographs.

“I want to be a figure, an idol,” he said. “I want to be a role model. I’m a young guy and I can talk to young people. I’ll help whoever I can. If I can help just one person, I will serve my role as a role model.”

At the age of 24, he can relate to young people. And it appears he will be a very refreshing and sincere role model. Young people might find it hard to relate to the success he has enjoyed, but that’s just part of looking up to him.

Terry Norris has accomplished considerable in a relatively short period of time and maybe the most important thing he has accomplished is simply being himself. He spent so much time early in his career being someone who happened to be fighting someone else everyone knew.

That was the case when he beat Mugabi, and no one paid much attention to his fight in Paris with Jacquot. You know who everyone thought was the champion when he faced Leonard. Very few realized it was not Leonard.

The Leonard fight established Terry Norris as the champion. He reinforced that position when he dispatched Donald Curry in the seventh round earlier this summer in Palm Springs.

This week in this town, there is absolutely no doubt that Terry Norris is a champion defending his title, even if not everyone is sure exactly which title that might be.

You know it’s a happening because the glitz and hype are there and so are the fountain and the doorman and the sweeping staircase. A couple of Palookas from Twin Falls, Ida., don’t get to spar behind velvet ropes.