Terry Norris, who has found no other way to lure Julio Cesar Chavez into the ring with him, may have discovered that a combination of beer-inspired chutzpah and controversy will do just fine.
Throwing insults and a $10-million offer at Chavez didn’t work, but disrupting a recent Chavez victory celebration by throwing a hard hand straight into Chavez’s face, whether or not it was provoked by some vintage Spanish cussing, could make Norris’ dream come true.
As both men prepare for bouts Friday in San Antonio, an ugly scuffle between Chavez and Norris at a party last May has even Chavez, famous for his one-fight-at-a-time focus, drifting ahead to a possible grudge match against Norris.
It almost sounds too pugilistically perfect, too staged to be real. But neither fighter sounds as if he is acting.
For Chavez, the welterweight title fight against Pernell Whitaker Friday “is a natural thing, but isn’t a fight I really wanted.”
Mention Norris, though, and his eyes narrow as he talks about the incident at Chavez’s victory party in Las Vegas after he had beaten Terrence Alli. Mention Terry Norris, and it is very clear what Chavez really wants.
“Norris has been very gross and unsportsmanlike to me,” Chavez said recently. “A fight at 147 (pounds) with Norris would motivate me.”
Previously, as Norris stewed from the sidelines, Chavez has said he did not think he should fight Norris, because Norris is a natural 154-pounder and Chavez is most comfortable near 140.
“Chavez is scared to fight me,” is the way Norris describes it. “I think he’s got a little chicken in him.”
But, should Chavez, 31, dispatch Whitaker at 147 pounds for Whitaker’s WBC welterweight belt, he now says that he will stay at 147 so he can teach Norris a lesson in manners.
So what happened back in May? It comes down to a he-says, he-says tale.
Chavez says Norris, without cause, tried to humiliate him by wrapping his hand hard around Chavez’s jaw.
Norris says he was provoked, but they agree that they had to be physically separated.
“He cursed me out in Spanish,” Norris said. “Being from Texas, around a lot of Mexican people, I knew what he meant. He cursed me out, I pushed him in the face.
“Being a champion, being in the public eye, I thought he would have more respect than try to diss me like that in front of a whole bunch of people. But then again, he might have been trying to impress his people because he was there with all his people.
“But I showed him who was boss.”
Norris admits to having grabbed a beer bottle and said he was ready to use it when several of Chavez’s group came toward him, but, contrary to some reports, he says he never brandished it because several people stepped in to stop the fracas.
“I didn’t throw a bottle at him,” Norris said. “When I was walking out, I threw it against the wall.”
Without much doubt, the Norris-Joe Gatti fight for Norris’ World Boxing Council super-welterweight belt was put on the Chavez-Whitaker card to encourage speculation that Norris would get the winner. And, though it is hard for him to admit it, he wants the winner to be Chavez.
“I believe I’m the best fighter in the world,” Norris said. “That’s probably the only thing that bothers me (about being on the undercard). People are going around saying that this (Chavez-Whitaker) is something to prove who is the best fighter in world. But they can’t count me out. Chavez or Whitaker, they’re two great fighters, but I can beat them both.
“This fight won’t make them the best fighter in the world--I’m the best fighter in the world.”
Norris, 26, has two more fights scheduled, first against Simon Brown and then against International Boxing Federation junior-middleweight champion Gianfranco Rossi.
In his last fight, June 19, Norris was stunningly knocked down by little-regarded Troy Waters in the second round. One round later, Norris knocked Waters out. But the sting of the knockdown remains.
“That was just a little overconfidence,” Norris said. “I had a lot on my mind going into the fight. It’s sometimes hard to get up for a fight, and that was one of those fights where I went in not thinking a lot of Troy Waters.
“I’m human. I got caught with a good shot. I got knocked down. But I’m preparing myself well, not looking over Gatti. I plan on showing the world that I am best fighter in the world.”
Norris is sensitive to charges that he has built his reputation by pounding big-name fighters well past their prime--Sugar Ray Leonard, Donald Curry, Meldrick Taylor--and says Chavez is his primary goal only as long as Chavez, the WBC junior-welterweight champion, stays unbeaten.
“If Whitaker gets him, then there’s no use in even fighting him,” Norris said. “I hope Chavez gets past it. It’d be great for me to fight Chavez.
“I’d like to fight him his next fight to keep everybody from going around saying Chavez has lost it, Chavez is too old. I’d like to fight him when people are saying he’s the best fighter in the world.”
Genaro Hernandez, who originally had his sights set on an Los Angeles grudge match against Oscar De La Hoya, is now tentatively scheduled for a Sept. 27 date at the Forum to defend his World Boxing Assn. junior-lightweight title against the No. 1-ranked challenger, Frank Warren.