He Wants to Make a Fist Upon a Star : Boxing: Brett Lally envisions wresting the super welterweight title away from Terry Norris on Saturday. But many say the challenger is dreaming an impossible dream.
Brett Lally did not come up here to dream. He came to this sleepy ski resort to train for the biggest fight of his eight-year professional career--a 12-round bout Saturday night at the Sports Arena for Terry Norris’ World Boxing Council super welterweight title.
But with the stars shining so bright and the air smelling so fresh at 6,754 feet, it is easy to see how Lally got caught up in the moment.
“I dream about going home with that belt around my waist, making my parents proud of me, going home to a parade through town and then, going on a cruise with my fiancee,” said Lally, who is from Westland, Mich., a Detroit suburb.
Spend some time with Lally, and you will hear him recite that dream so often that you will begin to believe it can happen.
Then, listen to his brother and trainer, Bradd, and you will be convinced to put your money on the fighter--even if Norris is the champion and an overwhelming favorite.
The Lallys do not mind that Norris has knocked his last three opponents into retirement. Or that those opponents read like a who’s who in boxing--John Mugabi, Sugar Ray Leonard and Donald Curry.
They are not fazed when boxing people call Norris one of the best fighters today.
They are not concerned that Lally’s brawling style and 29-5 record are not as pretty Norris’ classic stick-and-move style and 28-3 record.
And Lally, ranked second by the WBC, laughs when he hears Norris say he’s going to hold another retirement party Saturday night.
“Terry Norris is a good fighter, but he doesn’t scare me,” Lally, 28, said.
But maybe he should.
The latest Norris retirement party was for Curry, a former welterweight champion, two months ago in Palm Springs. This is the same Curry who knocked out Lally in two rounds 18 months ago.
The analogy is somehow lost on Lally, who says the Curry bout was an aberration.
“I said to myself, ‘He’s at the end of his rope,’ ” said Lally, who has won five consecutive fights since the Curry loss. “I didn’t give him the respect I should have.”
Curry, who now trains fighters in Arlington, Tex., agrees that Lally might have had an off night.
“I just went in and caught Brett cold,” he said. “He’s a good fighter and a good competitor. Maybe he was intimidated. I don’t know how much pressure was on him.”
Curry said Norris shouldn’t read too much into his second-round knockout of Lally almost two years ago.
“It’s not that hard for (Norris) to take this fight for granted because of what I did to Brett,” Curry said. “I think Brett has a shot of winning. If he’s in good shape, I think he could win.”
If it comes down to stamina, Lally and his camp feel certain they will win. The Lally camp says the biggest difference is in the altitude. While Lally has been training at nearly 7,000 feet for almost six weeks, Norris has worked out in Campo at 4,000 feet.
Lally’s workout routine is nearly the same every day. He runs from seven to 10 miles in the morning. He takes a break and then trains in the gym, which in this case is an airplane hanger at the city’s airport, for two to three hours.
Larry Goossen, who runs the training camp here, said he has been amazed by Lally’s endurance.
“The first day up here at 7,000 feet, he went 10 rounds,” Goossen said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
In the evening, he relaxes by playing a round of golf or going fishing.
In the last month, Lally estimates he has sparred more than 100 rounds. One day, he went 12 rounds at a fast pace to simulate Saturday night.
After working out hard for 90 minutes one day, Lally was barely breathing hard. His upper body may not be as well-defined as Norris’, but it is hard to imagine a leaner boxer than Lally.
Part of Lally’s strategy will be to wear down Norris.
“We just don’t believe anybody’s made him work 180 seconds each round,” Bradd Lally said.
The Lallys believe the quickest way to tire out Norris is through a succession of body punches. They believe Norris was knocked out by Julian Jackson two years ago because he was softened up by body punches.
“We’ve watched tapes of Norris over and over,” Bradd Lally said. “He’s a good boxer, but one thing he doesn’t like is getting hit to the body. Every time he gets hit there, he puts his hands up.
“We like watching the Jackson fight. Jackson threw a right hand to the body in the first round and it changed the whole fight. After that, he got iced. I mean he got iced.”
Curry agreed that a sustained body attack is the way to beat Norris.
“Hitting him in the body is the only way you’re going to slow him down,” Curry said. “If Brett is not able to slow him down and cut off the ring, he could be in trouble. Norris has extremely fast hands and he moves well.”
Although Lally concedes that Norris has faster hands, he feels he owns a decided power advantage.
“I guarantee you I’m a stronger fighter than anyone in the middleweight division,” Lally said.
Middleweight Joey DeGrandis, who was one of Lally’s sparring partners, didn’t argue.
“I’ve sparred with Reggie Johnson, Steve Collins and James Toney--he’s stronger than all three,” DeGrandis said. “For a junior middleweight, he’s as strong as a light heavyweight.”
DeGrandis cautioned Norris on taking Lally lightly.
“It could be a long night for Terry Norris,” he said. “Terry Norris is going to find out that Lally has quicker hands than he thinks.”
The Norris camp has said they are not worried about Lally’s hand speed or his strength. Their biggest nightmare is Lally’s head or elbows meeting Norris’ head.
Lally denies that he is a dirty fighter.
“I’m a good, hard fighter,” Lally said. “But if he hits me with an elbow, he’ll get one back at him. I’m not a dirty fighter, but if wants to fight that way, I’ll finish it like that.”
Curry said Lally might need to use some brawling tactics to beat Norris.
“Style is what makes fights,” Curry said. “Brett is the type of fighter that could give Terry trouble. He has to out-muscle him, make it more of a saloon brawl. He’s got to make it more physical than technical.”
That shouldn’t be too tough for Lally. He has never been mistaken for a ring technician.
Many of his fights have turned into blood baths, and much of the blood has come from Lally’s face. The makeup of Lally’s skin tissue leaves him susceptible to cuts, which explains the rather large scar above his left eye.
But Lally can dish it out, too. In his second to last fight, he gave Willie Montana 50 stitches to remember him by. Tom Vacca, who has been the matchmaker for some of Lally’s fights, said Lally can brawl with the best of them.
“He’s a very tough kid,” Vacca said. “I would rather fight him in the ring than out of the ring.”
Lally said he gets some of his toughness from his father, who was never a fighter but always talked like one.
“He always told me, “Never fall for a sucker punch, and when someone comes up screaming at you, don’t ask no questions, just let him have it,’ ” Lally said. “His favorite saying is, ‘Leave ‘em laying.’ ”
Lally has followed his father’s advice 18 times, including four knockouts in his last five victories.
But most of the time, Lally listens to his brother, Bradd, who has managed his career since 1987. Since then, Lally’s only loss has been to Curry and his career has moved steadily upward.
Even if the improbable happens Saturday, Lally still will cash in on the biggest payday of his life. He stands to make about $80,000, roughly four times more than he made for the Curry bout.
Lally is not afraid to acknowledge that money is his biggest motivator.
“Anybody who says they box because they want to get punched in their teeth is lying through their teeth,” Lally said. “I believe everyone boxes because they’re looking for a big payday.
“All I have to do is win this fight. . . . Defend the title a couple times. I should be set after that.”
Sounds nice. Now if Lally can just get Norris to play along.