Daniels Doesn't Seem Revved Up About Stepping Into Spotlight : Boxing: Norris' foe, who is unbeaten, is facing his first elite competition. But he's not caught up in hype over world junior middleweight title bout.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Wake up, Carl Daniels! You're fighting Terry Norris for the world junior middleweight championship Saturday afternoon at the Sports Arena. The fight is even being broadcast nationally by ABC.

Daniels, 21, doesn't appear to care. He spent most of his week looking like someone who was spending his time on the town instead of in the ring. Minutes before Thursday's news conference at the Princess Resort Hotel, his eyes fell below half-staff and then completely shut down as he listened to his Walkman.

Hey Carl! Do you even know what you're doing in San Diego?

"He doesn't have a clue," said Donald Curry, Daniels' trainer. "That's the good thing about it. That works to my advantage. He could have the whole world and he really doesn't even know it. The only thing he wants to do is fight."

Norris, who lost the world junior middleweight title at 21 to Julian Jackson, said Daniels' almost indifferent demeanor might be his way of masking tension.

"I feel Carl Daniels is nervous," he said. "He's probably concentrating on the fight real hard, which will cause him to make more mistakes."

But so far, Daniels has made very few mistakes in his 26 professional fights. He has won them all, 17 by knockout.

Daniels' amateur career was almost as successful. He won the American Boxing Federation national tournament and later fought on U.S. teams that faced Cuba and South Korea. He turned pro after losing the Olympic trials box-off in 1988 to Ed Hopson at 125 pounds.

"There was nothing left for me in the amateurs," he said. "If you're mentally ready, why not go pro?"

It took Daniels only three years to reach fifth in the World Boxing Council rankings and earn a shot at Norris' WBC title.

The downside of Daniels' rapid rise is that he hasn't fought any elite boxers along the way. Daniels said he's aware of the skepticism surrounding his record.

"It's a big mountain, a big steppingstone," he said. "I really haven't fought anyone in the Top 10 before."

Abel Sanchez, Norris' trainer, said the mountain will be too high for Daniels to climb.

"Most of his fights have come at 148, 149 pounds," Sanchez said. "He's basically a welterweight moving up to Terry. Terry is a junior middleweight coming down from 165 to 154. So I think that because of the lack of experience, by the fifth or sixth round, Terry is going to take over and Carl is not going to be able to handle it. He's a good little fighter that just needs a little more seasoning."

Curry was even less impressed when he initially took over Daniels' contract three months ago.

"I saw his fight on film and he looked pretty good, but when I first worked him out, he was terribly out of shape," Curry said. "I thought, 'My God, how did he win all these fights?' "

But once Daniels shed a few pounds, Curry took him to Las Vegas and began to see what the 26-0 record was all about.

"He started going through all these sparring partners," Curry said. "We had five guys who really couldn't take it. All of them were undefeated, promising guys who couldn't hang in there with him."

Daniels said he was only trying to fight himself into shape.

"I don't like to brag, but I didn't get much work there," he said. "I'm not trying to kill anybody. I just like to work and I work hard."

Curry said he's made sure that Daniels has gotten enough work.

"There's no way he could be in any better shape," Curry said. "He won't lose the fight because he's not in shape. If Terry's going to keep his title, he's going to have to really fight for it."

In other words, he'll have to fight harder than he did last June 1 in Palm Springs when he stopped Curry in eight rounds. The loss ended Curry's career.

"I hit (Norris) with a few shots, but my speed and legs weren't like they were when I was 21," Curry said. "But Carl can take advantage of more things than I did."

Curry said Daniels will take advantage of the fact that he is left-handed.

"Carl is very unorthodox, even for a left-hander," Curry said. "He's going to hit Terry with stuff that he doesn't know where it's coming from. Terry can go out and get all the left-handers in the world to box with, but he's not going to find a style like this guy's."

Daniels said Norris will find his style a little tougher to deal with than that of Brett Lally, who did not make it past the first round with Norris last August at the Sports Arena.

"Brett Lally doesn't have the technique that I do," Daniels said. "He doesn't have the side-to-side movement, and I'm more physical than Lally. He went straight for him, stood straight up with no head movement. He was an easy target."

Although he won't be an easy target, Daniels said he wouldn't run away from Norris either.

"If he comes at me, I'm going to come at him," he said. "I'm not running and I know he's not running. So somebody has to go. The best man wins."

If it's Daniels, maybe it will finally open his eyes.

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