The Architect of His Own Success : Boxing: Norris, who is making a name for himself, will defend his WBC title tonight.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Someone finally recognized Terry Norris in San Diego, but it didn't count. Couldn't remember his name. Terry Something.

Seems the boxer from rural San Diego County who fought Sugar Ray Leonard in New York has since learned he had garnered only fortune.

"One day at the Del Mar Fairgrounds this summer," he said, "I was taking my 12-year-old niece on a ride when I saw this teen-ager talking to his girlfriend. I heard him say: 'That's the guy who beat Sugar Ray Leonard!' "

Terry Something. Well, maybe these things take time.

Then, a month or so later, in a San Diego grocery store, Norris said a man looked at him and told his young son: "That's Terry Norris." Autographs followed.

So fame is slow in coming, Norris is learning. Used to be, the junior middleweight champion could walk around downtown San Diego all day and no one would notice.

"Now, if one person recognizes me on the street and starts talking to me, then sometimes other people will quickly figure out who I am, too," he said.

Norris wants to be known not only as the man who retired Leonard, but also as the man who brought big-time boxing to the San Diego Sports Arena, which he will begin trying to do tonight. In the fourth defense of his World Boxing Council championship, he will fight Brett Lally in an HBO show that begins at 4:30 p.m.

It is Norris' hope that a victory over Lally will propel him into a big-money, pay-per-view fight against Meldrick Taylor. HBO is trying to make such a match, but it is believed that Taylor's promoter, Dan Duva, would prefer that Taylor fight Hector Camacho. More money, less risk.

Lally (29-5), of Westland, Mich., lost to Donald Curry 16 months ago in Las Vegas. In Norris' last fight, he knocked out Curry in eight rounds in Palm Springs on June 1.

Norris won the junior middleweight championship in 1990 with a one-round knockout of John Mugabi and has since retained it against Rene Jacquot, Leonard and Curry.

Unlike many other big-name boxers today, Norris is seldom more than a few pounds over his fighting weight of 154 pounds between fights. One reason: Between fights, he does 500 sit-ups a day. In training, he does 800 a day.

For a fighter, having a washboard stomach, he says, is like wearing armor.

"Those body shots can really take it out of you," he said. "Leonard hurt me several times with body shots, but I recovered quickly and I was quicker than he was, and he never caught me with the big shot. When I step in the ring, I like to feel those stomach muscles. . . . It lets me know I'm ready."

Norris trains in the scrub oak and manzanita lands of San Diego County at his manager's ranch in Campo, four miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border and about 50 miles east of San Diego.

There, when training, he lives in a decrepit, 100-year-old bunkhouse with his father, Orlin Norris Sr.; his older brother, heavyweight Orlin Norris, who also will fight on today's card, and assorted sparring partners.

He runs four miles early every morning, alone, on a dirt road. He trains in late afternoons in Joe Sayatovich's aluminum-roofed barn, converted into a gym a few years back.

Norris lives in nearby Alpine, with his wife, Kelly, and infant son, Terry II. In nearby Pine Valley, his manager is teaching Norris how to multiply his rapidly growing wealth.

"Terry and I bought a lot and we're going to build a house on it," said Sayatovich, a San Diego roofing contractor.

"We're going to split everything, and I'm going to make sure he learns every step of the process. Two good things will happen to him by doing this: I'll show him that the profit he'll make on the house will pay the taxes on a lot of his boxing income, and he'll learn how to build a house.

"It'll be a 4,500-square-foot, single-story, ranch-style home with its own water well. We're still in the permits stage, but when we finish it, we'll have about $375,000 into it. We'll sell it for around $500,000."

Who knows? Maybe one day in San Diego, people will spot Norris on the street and say: "That's Terry Norris, the big contractor."

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