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BOXING / TIM KAWAKAMI : After Twice Fouling Out, Norris Wants Santana to Play Fair

This has been a foul time for Terry Norris, stuck in limbo since last November and disqualified in his last two fights against an amiable, hittable fellow named Luis Santana.

You watch your title get carried off on a stretcher in consecutive bouts, and your mood is not going to be brightened by the quality of Santana’s ability to lure you into disqualifications.

Twice, the outmatched Santana has been fouled by Norris--the first time on Nov. 12 in Mexico City on a blow to the back of the head, the second on April 8 in Las Vegas on a punch after the bell--and twice, the Dominican Republic-born fighter has collapsed to the canvas with a flourish, unable (or refusing) to rise until he was awarded the victory.

Both times, buttressed by Santana’s own giddy reaction even as he has been carried out of the arena, Norris has argued that Santana took dives and was rewarded with the World Boxing Council super-welterweight title.

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“I’ve wasted a year messing around with Santana,” said Norris, who has had his plans of joining the ranks of the multimillion-dollar-per-fight club stalled by the disqualifications. “He’s been a nightmare, and I kind of wish I never had even agreed to fight this guy.

“Santana and his manager, Elvis Phillips--I don’t really like those guys. They’re making boxing look bad, making me look bad. . . . They take it as a game, this acting thing. It’s a ‘Rocky’ movie to them, and I don’t like that.”

Norris, who had regained his WBC title a few months before his first Santana loss, gets his third shot at Santana next Saturday in a bout to be televised by ABC hours before Mike Tyson’s comeback bout in Las Vegas.

The Norris camp acknowledges its fighter has contributed at least partly to the two stretcher endings because of his ferocious, almost antsy desire to put his opponent into the first row. Given his history with Santana, Norris is being prepared to avoid any chance of disqualifying himself.

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“It’s definitely a different kind of approach,” said his manager, Joe Sayatovich. “There’s no doubt in our minds that on a level playing field, Terry Norris beats Luis Santana 100 out of 100 times. But knowing we’re not on a level field because of his actions, we’re approaching this fight very, very carefully.

“That means during sparring sessions, as the bell rings, Terry is immediately stepping back. During sessions, if the fighter he spars with starts to spin or move, Terry immediately steps back. We don’t need to keep punching, we’re going to beat him anyway, so don’t give him a chance to do something crazy.”

In the first bout, Norris, possibly the best fighter in the world with six losses, was pounding on Santana against the ropes in the fifth round when Santana turned--intentionally, Norris says--and drew a clean shot from Norris on the back of the head. It was a clear foul, but Norris said Santana could have continued instead of needing a stretcher to leave the ring.

In the second bout, Norris was dominating Santana in the second round when referee Kenny Bayliss broke apart a clinch late in the third, then motioned for both to start fighting again as the bell rang. Nobody in the ring reacted when the bell rang, but when Norris caught Santana with a clean right to the jaw, Santana dropped like a stone and Norris was disqualified.

Said Norris, joking only slightly: “I’m going to make sure that he stays on his feet the whole 12 rounds. Maybe I’m just going to pitty-pat the whole 12 rounds. Because if I knock him out, he’s just going to cry wolf.”

Norris points to the obvious flop job performed by Santana’s fellow Dominican, Jose Vida Ramos, in his disqualification victory over Jorge Paez last July--a rematch has been set for that bout--as an ominous sign of things to come if Santana and his sort are allowed to flourish.

“What’s up with these guys? Are they fighters or wimps?” Norris said. “Everybody should look at that stuff and say this guy is definitely not good for boxing. They talk about banning me for fouls--maybe they should ban him for faking. How many more times is this guy going to do it?”

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Sayatovich, whom Norris briefly left last April in a financial dispute but rejoined after mediation by promoter Don King, said even though Norris lost a chance to make as much as $3 million since last November, a big-money future is still in the works.

Felix Trinidad, the 22-year-old phenom welterweight champion from Puerto Rico is a possibility for this November; Norris still wants to fight Pernell Whitaker, a long-discussed bout, and way down the road, he wants to work his way up to super-middleweight for a bout against Roy Jones Jr.

“Trinidad’s a good fighter and he’s one of the best out there,” Norris said. “I believe I can beat him. I haven’t lost anything. I’m still one of the best fighters in boxing.”

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Genaro Hernandez, who had never weighed more than 133 pounds in his life, is markedly more muscle-bound and has been regularly tipping the scale at more than 140 as he prepares to move up to lightweight (135 limit) for his Sept. 9 bout with Oscar De La Hoya.

Hernandez, a longtime 130-pound champion usually distinguished by his rail-thin body, went through swimming pool workouts specifically to strengthen his shoulders for the bout with De La Hoya, who regularly weighs more than 140 pounds. In a slug-it-out nine-round sparring session Friday (including six rounds with Pomona lightweight Shane Mosley) at the Brooklyn Gym, Hernandez looked stronger and bigger than he ever has--and showed no signs of the hand problems that have lingered throughout his career.


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