The tape tells the story, and, although he is an embarrassed viewer, Terry Norris does not flinch as it plays.
Norris’ body leans away from the television, but his eyes barely blink, frozen on the fighters, and the pounding.
Whomp-whomp-whomp! As if delivered to him as one more test of faith, one more swallow of humility, while Norris awaits the start of a news conference, 20 feet away the tape of his devastating fourth-round knockout by Simon Brown is loud and luminous.
Whomp-whomp-whomp! He cannot look away. Maybe he wants to, but he doesn’t.
Even when Brown walks past the television into the hotel ballroom, Norris does not turn. Only when the tape shows him lurching crazily back to his corner at the end of a round does Norris’ face break into a grimace.
“I can watch it and kind of critique myself now,” Norris says moments after the tape is over. “It still hurts, but I can get through it.
“What I see most of all is the points where I kept dropping my hands, letting him catch me with that right hand. Watching the fight now, that’s all I see--me making all the mistakes and him capitalizing on them.”
Norris entered the ring last Dec. 18 at Puebla, Mexico, swaggering and declaring himself the best fighter, pound for pound, in the world.
He had a fight planned against Pernell Whitaker; he was considering moving up to middleweight. He was 36-3 and coming off six consecutive knockout victories as he went into the 11th defense of his World Boxing Council junior-middleweight title against Brown, an opponent who had canceled bouts with Norris twice previously.
Norris charged Brown as if the former two-time welterweight champion was another Joe Gatti or Pat Lawlor. Norris blasted Brown, who took the blows and punched right back, with obvious effectiveness.
When Norris went down for good, all the questions about his shaky chin and his all-or-nothing style and his discipline in training poured over him.
Pound for pound the best? Not after the second knockout defeat of his career, and fourth loss overall.
Norris says now that he realizes he might never be mentioned as one of boxing’s elite again. But as he prepares for a rematch against Brown next Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on a card featuring four rematches, Norris understands that this might be his last chance to regain much of what he has lost.
“I had gotten myself into a mode where I was walking in, knocking fighters down,” the 26-year-old Norris says. “That’s not Terry Norris. I’m into boxing my opponent. If a knockout comes, it comes.
“I can change, I can adapt. I’ve always been a boxer (and a) puncher, so I can change my styles up.”
It took some time, Norris acknowledges, to accept the defeat.
“A lot of things go through your mind when something like that happens to you,” he says. “You wonder about your chin, you wonder about your talents, you wonder about a lot of things. But I’m over that. I’m confident in knowing that I wasn’t fighting the way I should, the way that made me who I am.”
Eventually, Norris listened to his friends and advisers--and to what the tape of the Brown fight told him. He had to go back to basics and start working on how not to get hit.
“It’s embarrassing to watch the fight, but I know deep down inside that it wasn’t me,” Norris says. “Now, I have to overcome that and win the next fight and I can prove to the world that it wasn’t Terry Norris then. This is Terry.”
Says Norris’ manager, Joe Sayatovich: “They’re learning experiences. He learned from this, just like he did from the first (knockout) with Julian Jackson.”
Norris says he has reverted to his old style, the one he used in beating Sugar Ray Leonard in 1991.
In his last fight, against Armando Campas in March, Norris took a more relaxed approach, firing away from the outside without moving in for the immediate knockout, slowing Campas in the early going, then knocking him out in the fourth.
He says he is concentrating on defense, picking off shots with his gloves, moving in and out, not focusing only on the knockout.
“When I get hit, I do have a tendency to go down,” Norris says. “But it’s not because I don’t have a chin. It’s because I get caught with too many clean, solid shots. Any man, you get hit with too many clean, solid shots, you go down.
“Hopefully, I won’t get back into that kill mode. I want to come out there and box. I don’t have to knock out people to impress myself, impress anybody else. I think a lot of people like to see pure boxing, and that’s what I’m going to do.
“I miss my name being out there,” he adds, “I miss being talked about.”
Thursday: Danny Romero vs. Brian Lonon, flyweights; Johnny Tapia vs. Antonio Ruiz, flyweights. Olympic Auditorium, 5:30 p.m.