RingSide Report

World News, Social Issues, Politics, Entertainment and Sports

“Terrible” Terry Norris: RSR Talks with the Former Three-Time Light Middleweight World Champion

Interview by Mike “Rubber Warrior” Plunkett

“No one could beat me but myself” – Terry Norris

Today in boxing, they simply don’t make them like they used to. As so often is the case, titles today are won and lost in the blink of an eye. In one bout a title is won and in the very next, just as quickly it is lost. Major world championships are passed around like a proverbial bong. Case in point; over the last four years the WBC light middleweight title has been held by five different men over six different title reigns. All that won it were fine fighters in their own right, but none cherished it and defended it with the type of drive and passion that brought honor to it or underlined its value in the context of historical perspective. To find a fighter that valued and defended the light middleweight championship on that level one must go back to a different era, a time just over a decade ago when winning the title meant everything and defending it was just as much about personal pride as it was serious business.

“Terrible” Terry Norris abruptly arrived on the world scene over twenty years ago, winning the WBC light middleweight title in highlight reel fashion on network television. Defending his championship regularly, he defied the odds outclassing marquee names who were favored over him or quickly dispatching those that weren’t quite at his level. He was that rare type of great fighter that could do it any number of spectacular ways; he could box and dance with supernatural reflexes and timing or he could blow a foe out in sudden and explosive fashion. He was active, exciting and as we saw over time, altogether human despite his considerable talent and gifts. In all he would win the WBC light middleweight title on three separate occasions and later annex the IBF title in a high stakes unification match, forever etching his name among the greats of the sport. As such, it was the opportunity of a lifetime for this writer to sit down to talk with the former three-time champ about his amazing career and life after boxing.

MP: How did you get your start with the sport of boxing? Were there any outside influences that brought you into it?

My first time boxing I was nine years old. My mom put me in boxing to keep me off the streets.

MP: You made your professional debut with a 1st- round knockout over one Jose Luis Cordova in August 1986. What are your recollections of your first pro match?

Well it was really a quick fight. I believe it was a one-round knockout. I hit my opponent and he just went down. I was happy, I was scared at first. It was my very first professional fight. It turned out well for me.

MP: You amassed a fine winning record of 21-2, defeating future world champions Quincy Taylor and Steve Little, as well as former IBF light middleweight champ Buster Drayton. Even at that early stage did you feel destined to win a world championship?

Yes, I did. Coming out of the amateurs, I felt I was destined to win a world title. My dad pushed me, my dad drove me crazy. He was constantly talking about boxing. Over time boxing just became a part of me.

MP: In July 1989 you challenged the destructive punching Julian Jackson for the WBA light middleweight title. After dominating the first round you were suddenly caught and stopped in round two. What happened?

Man, that guy hit like lightning! He was so strong, Julian. In the first round I came out boxing and moving, winning the fight, beating him hands-down. In the second round, I was winning it when he timed me with one of those haymakers and laid me out. It became time for me to bounce back after I lost.

MP: Eight months and three wins later you did bounce back when you obliterated John “The Beast” Mugabi for the WBC light middleweight title, scoring a spectacular knockout in the 1st- round on network television. What do you recall of that moment in your career?

That was one of the happiest moments of my life. I knocked out John “The Beast” Mugabi and won my first world title. Going into the fight I was terrified. Everybody was telling me that this guy was going to knock me out in one round and it turned out totally the opposite. I nailed him with a beautiful straight right hand and laid him out. It was one of the happiest moments of my life.

MP: After easily outclassing former WBC light middleweight champ Rene Jacquot in your first title defense, you posted a huge win over the legendary five-division champion “Sugar” Ray Leonard. What are your recollections of that bout, the win and Leonard as an opponent?

You know, Leonard was my idol, well he was my idol and now since I beat him, I’m kind of passed it. Fighting him was scary. I knew he had more polished skills than I had and I figured he would walk right through me with them. In the first round, like any round back then, I was boxing and moving and trying to keep from getting nailed with a good shot and it just so happened that I hit him with a good counter and dropped him, and from that point on my confidence level just went up. I started beating on him every round. I don’t think Ray won one round that whole fight. It turned out great for me.

MP: Your next win was an 8th- round stoppage of the former undisputed welterweight and WBC light middleweight champion, a fighter once rated at the very top of the pound for pound ratings, Donald “The Lone Star Cobra” Curry. What are your recollections of that bout and of Curry?

It was another of those fights that was a little bit scary for me. Donald Curry, the king cobra, he was from my state so I knew him very well. I was a little terrified of him too but I watched tapes and went into the gym and trained extra hard and came prepared for the fight and I beat him.

MP: In May 1992, reigning WBA welterweight champion Meldrick Taylor moved-up to challenge for your title. You demonstrated impeccable timing, cat-like reflexes and razor-sharp technique, stopping Taylor in four. I feel it was your best performance ever. Where does it rank in your mind and were you at your peak for this match?

Meldrick Taylor was an Olympic Gold Medalist, the same as Ray Leonard and that scared me too, him being an Olympic gold medalist. I hadn’t made it to the Olympics, I tried but I lost in the semi-finals. So I knew these Olympic guys, the extra skills and experience that I didn’t have, I didn’t possess. I always trained extra hard because I didn’t get through the top, top level of my amateur career. With Meldrick I stepped into the ring totally prepared to fight him and I stopped him in four rounds. It was another great feeling for me.

MP: During this period in your career a major boxing publication claimed that you had words with then-undefeated Julio Cesar Chavez at a boxing awards event. Rumor had it that you challenged him to a catch-weight bout, at one point going so far as to shove him. Is this true?

Yeah, all of that’s true, man. Me and Cesar Chavez, in the boxing game, we hated each other but outside of the ring if we ran into each other we were cool. We talked about fighting and every time there was somebody hanging around us, we were like ready to fight. There were several times I pushed him and several times we had words but the fight never came about because Don King kept us away from each other in the ring. He didn’t want us to fight each other, so we didn’t get that fight made. I was wishing and hoping and I was pretty sure I would have beaten him in three or four rounds. It never came about but I wish it did.

MP: You obliterated IBF welterweight champion Maurice Blocker in two rounds in early 1993, then had to get off of the canvas to stop the durable Troy Waters in your next title defense that spring. It looked as though you had strayed from your proficient boxing style for the sake of scoring explosive knockouts, and with Waters it almost cost you. What happened?

Yeah, that’s true. I was at a point in my career where I was just hitting guys and knocking them of their feet and I thought all I had to do was just go in there and play around with these guys and land a good shot and the fight would be over with. That wasn’t always true. Now with Waters, I hit him with everything, man. I hit him with the kitchen sink, and that guy wouldn’t fall down. I beat him up pretty bad and busted him up so they eventually ended up stopping the fight, but that guy took a beating. I tried to walk through him in the first couple of rounds and I couldn’t do it. He caught me with a shot, dropped me and I got back up continued to beat his ass. It was a good fight!

MP: In December 1993 you were badly rocked in the first round of your defense against former welterweight champion Simon Brown, a man known for his durability and considerable punching power. He went on to take your title, posting a 4th- round upset KO. What did you do wrong in that contest?

That’s another guy, Simon Brown. I don’t care what nobody says, that guy has so much power! He was like a mule kick. When he hit me, it knocked me off my feet; it rocked me and I felt it all the way down to my toes. He hit so hard! I think he hit harder than Julian Jackson. He kept throwing a lot of dirty blows; he hit me a couple of times, three times in the back of the head which had me stunned the whole fight, the whole four rounds. He came out prepared for the fight and I wasn’t totally prepared. I was out partying and messing around, having a good time and enjoying the good life and he came in very prepared and he beat me.

MP: In May 1994, you regained the WBC light middleweight title from Brown, completely shutting him out in the process. Describe what you did differently that made winning back the title look so effortless.

In our second fight I showed the world what the true Terry Norris was all about. I beat him for all twelve rounds and won a unanimous decision. In the first fight I came out to fight and just take Simon out. In the second fight, I came out prepared to box twelve rounds and for twelve rounds I gave him a major boxing lesson.

MP: You lost and regained your WBC light middleweight title in a frustrating trilogy with journeyman Luis Santana. Critics chided you for having a short fuse which led to the disqualification losses in the first two bouts, but it looked to me like Santana did some “acting”. Tell our readers what happened in that series of bouts.

I think he did do some acting in those fights but I did lose my temper and after looking at the tapes I did hit Santana at the bell, and even though he did do some acting he got the title by disqualification. There was no way possible Santana could beat me. I could be half dead and still beat Santana; that guy had no skills whatsoever. He beat me twice, well I beat myself twice. He engaged me at the bell and he became champion, two times for no reason. It was just a big mistake on my part. When I was in there fighting a person, if you are not on your back, then I would still keep fighting. I have never been able to pull back. Even still today, if you are not laying flat on your back then I’m going to keep coming after you. I’m a really calm person; I’m never mean. Sometimes I just lose it when in a fight.

MP: In December 1995 you posted a wide twelve-round unanimous decision victory over Paul Vaden in an important unification match for his IBF light middleweight title with a systematic beat down. It’s a point of record that you disliked Vaden intensely, lending a sort of grudge match spin to the event. How did you feel taking his championship and why the animosity towards him?

Winning that title was another great feeling of mine. I wanted to become the undisputed world champion. The third guy (WBA titlist Julio Cesar Vasquez) wouldn’t fight me and this other guy Paul Vaden was having an affair with my ex-wife and that’s why we had all of the anger and animosity. This guy would come into the gym and hang on my coattails and all along he was trying to screw my wife. He acted as though he wanted to be my friend and hang around me. So I was angry going into the fight and even building up to the fight. I would catch her coming from his apartment; me being a Gemini, I was very snoopy, the way I would snoop around and investigate. I was a real private investigator. I was following her around and would catch her going to his place. I was just so upset, so pissed off that she was doing this to me with a guy that boxed. I would have been hurt if it had been somebody else, some other stranger, but it was a guy who was trying to be my friend and you know, wanted to be a champion, the type of champion I was at that point.

I was so pissed off that in that fight, I wanted to kill him. I truly wanted to kill that man. It was the first time I ever really wanted to destroy a man and I went out there trying to…..I didn’t want to knock him out. I just wanted to beat him for twelve rounds; I just wanted hurt him. I kept beating his ribs, beating his arms, trying to make him bleed and just slowly trying to kill this guy for twelve rounds, man. So I hit him and when I hurt him, I would let him recover and just continue to keep beating on him.

MP: You defended your titles with a handful of solid wins in 1996 through to the end of 1997. In and about that time there was talk of you meeting either Oscar De La Hoya or Felix Trinidad in a big money showdown. Who would you have preferred as an opponent? What weaknesses did you see in both Oscar and Felix?

I think with either one of those guys, the competitiveness in me, I felt very strongly I would have beaten De La Hoya I would have beaten both those guys, easily. With my skills, I used to box, brawl, I could do it all. I always came totally prepared, in shape, ready to fight. Trinidad, he was a good fighter, a very good fighter, much respect for him, but there were times he’d make a lot of mistakes and I would have capitalized on those mistakes and would have eventually put him down before the end of twelve rounds. I don’t think me and Trinidad would have went twelve rounds, I think it would have been stopped in about nine or ten. I know for a fact I would have given him a serious beating.

Now with De La Hoya, another good fighter, much respect to him too. But he’s soft, he couldn’t beat me. He wouldn’t have been able to hang around for twelve rounds, not the way I fought twelve rounds. Through twelve back then, I’d change your whole world. I would bring a fast pace, out speed you and if you couldn’t make it I’d eventually knock you out. I really feel that De La Hoya wouldn’t be able to go down, get up, go down, get up; eventually I would have stopped him.
MP: You lost your title suddenly by 9th- round knockout to Keith Mullings in December 1997 after dominating the first eight rounds of the bout. What happened?

I think it was just a point in my life where I came to that wall where it was time to quit. Boxing was just out of me. For some reason I went into that fight with Keith Mullings beating that guy, man, just boxing. I just boxed and did what I wanted to do, and I was beating him, but it just wasn’t there. In the later rounds I was not feeling like being there and this guy was strong as hell, I made a mistake and caught me with a good shot and it took it out of me and I didn’t want to fight; I didn’t want to be there.

MP: You suffered subsequent losses to Dana Rosenblatt and then Laurent Boudouani for the WBA light middleweight title in 1998, two fighters that you likely would have easily defeated back in the day. Your ability to execute seemed diminished by that point. What was going on?

I had been fighting for a number of years I think it just left me. I think I was just burnt out and it was time for me to quit. You know, I’m really a shy man, really cool guy and I truly feel like at one time I was one of the best fighters in the world. I do believe that I was one of the very best in the world and in my prime, no one could beat me. No one could beat me but myself. Toward the end of my career in ’97 and ’98, I had fought for too long. Ten years as an amateur and ten years as a pro. I was just burnt out.

MP: In the years after your career you’ve given back to the sport of boxing and demonstrated a love and concern towards today’s youth by creating The Terry Norris Youth Foundation. Tell us about this great cause in your name.

My youth foundation is to help kids to do everything; boxing, dancing, sports, just to get them off the street and give them an opportunity. I wanted to have kids come by; to have kids come to my facility to have tutors to help them with their school work and give them a way out. Come to my place and just relax, have fun and enjoy themselves.

MP: In closing, is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?

I would like to say to my fans, don’t close your eyes yet; I’m not done. Life is not over for me. I’m still doing things; I’m having a book written about me, I’m doing a movie and possibly a reality show.

Thank you, man. I wouldn’t have done this if it hadn’t of been for my wife, Tanya. She’s got my back. I normally don’t talk, I don’t like talking, I shy away from talking but she encouraged me to get out there more. She’s a great girl, I love her and she tries her best.

(Interviewer’s note: I would like to thank Tanya Norris for her faith and invaluable assistance in setting up this interview)

Terry Norris
Nickname: “Terrible”
Division: Light Middleweight
Professional Record: 47-9, 31 KO’s
Date Opponent Location Result

1986-08-02 Jose Luis Cordova         San Jose, USA             W KO   1
1986-08-13 Carlos Gutierrez          Inglewood, USA            W UD   4
1986-09-25 George Murphy             Inglewood, USA            W PTS  4
1986-10-07 Daryl Colquitt            Reseda, USA               W KO   4
1986-11-21 Carlos Gutierrez          Reseda, USA               W UD   4
1986-12-03 Lang McGowan              Inglewood, USA            W PTS  4

1987-02-05 Gilbert Baptist           Riverside, USA            W UD   4
1987-02-26 Dick Green                San Diego, USA            W KO   1
1987-03-16 Tino Leon                 Inglewood, USA            W KO   1
1987-03-26 Mauro Veronica            Los Angeles, USA          W KO   2
1987-04-03 Sergio Nieto Rayos        Las Vegas, USA            W TKO  1
1987-05-27 Nathan Dryer              Las Vegas, USA            W KO   3
1987-08-13 Derrick Kelly             Inglewood, USA            L UD  10
1987-09-04 Edward Neblett            Las Vegas, USA            W KO   6
1987-11-25 Joe Walker                Las Vegas, USA            L DQ   1

1988-01-21 Roman Nunez               San Diego, USA            W KO   1
1988-02-03 Richard Aguirre           Riverside, USA            W TKO  3
1988-03-28 Clayton Hires             Inglewood, USA            W KO   2
1988-08-12 Quincy Taylor             Las Vegas, USA            W UD  10
1988-10-18 Gilbert Baptist           San Diego, USA            W UD  10
1988-12-09 Steve Little              Las Vegas, USA            W TKO  6
        vacant NABF Light Middleweight Title

1989-03-28 Buster Drayton            Las Vegas, USA            W UD  12
        NABF Light Middleweight Title
1989-05-23 Ralph Ward                Atlantic City, USA        W UD  10
1989-07-30 Julian Jackson            Atlantic City, USA        L TKO  2
        WBA World Light Middleweight Title
1989-09-21 Nathan Dryer              San Diego, USA            W KO   4
1989-10-09 Jorge Vaca                Tijuana, Mexico           W SD  10
1989-11-21 Tony Montgomery           Santa Monica, USA         W UD  12
        NABF Light Middleweight Title

1990-03-31 John Mugabi               Tampa, USA                W KO   1
        WBC Light Middleweight Title
1990-07-13 Rene Jacquot              Annecy, France            W UD  12
        WBC Light Middleweight Title

1991-02-09 Sugar Ray Leonard         New York, USA             W UD  12
        WBC Light Middleweight Title
1991-06-01 Donald Curry              Palm Springs, USA         W KO   8
        WBC Light Middleweight Title
1991-08-17 Brett Lally               San Diego, USA            W TKO  1
        WBC Light Middleweight Title
1991-12-13 Jorge Fernando Castro     Bercy, France             W UD  12
        WBC Light Middleweight Title

1992-02-22 Carl Daniels              San Diego, USA            W TKO  9
        WBC Light Middleweight Title
1992-05-09 Meldrick Taylor           Las Vegas, USA            W TKO  4
        WBC Light Middleweight Title
1992-12-13 Pat Lawlor                Las Vegas, USA            W RTD  3

1993-02-20 Maurice Blocker           Mexico City, Mexico       W TKO  2
        WBC Light Middleweight Title
1993-06-19 Troy Waters               San Diego, USA            W TKO  3
        WBC Light Middleweight Title
1993-09-10 Joe Gatti                 San Antonio, USA          W TKO  1
        WBC Light Middleweight Title
1993-12-18 Simon Brown               Puebla, Mexico            L KO   4
        WBC Light Middleweight Title

1994-03-18 Armando Campas            Las Vegas, USA            W KO   4
1994-05-07 Simon Brown               Las Vegas, USA            W UD  12
        WBC Light Middleweight Title
1994-11-12 Luis Santana              Mexico City, Mexico       L DQ   5
        WBC Light Middleweight Title

1995-04-08 Luis Santana              Las Vegas, USA            L DQ   3
        WBC Light Middleweight Title
1995-08-19 Luis Santana              Las Vegas, USA            W TKO  2
        WBC Light Middleweight Title
1995-09-16 David Gonzalez            Las Vegas, USA            W TKO  9
        WBC Light Middleweight Title
1995-12-16 Paul Vaden                Philadelphia, USA         W UD  12
        WBC Light Middleweight Title
        IBF Light Middleweight Title

1996-01-27 Jorge Luis Vado           Phoenix, USA              W TKO  2
        WBC Light Middleweight Title
        IBF Light Middleweight Title
1996-02-24 Vincent Pettway           Richmond, USA             W TKO  8
        WBC Light Middleweight Title
        IBF Light Middleweight Title
1996-09-07 Alex Rios                 Las Vegas, USA            W TKO  5
        WBC Light Middleweight Title
        IBF Light Middleweight Title

1997-01-11 Nick Rupa                 Nashville, USA            W TKO 10
        WBC Light Middleweight Title
        IBF Light Middleweight Title
1997-08-08 Joaquin Velasquez         Kansas City, USA          W KO   2
1997-09-10 Andres Arellano Sandoval  Las Vegas, USA            W KO   2
1997-12-06 Keith Mullings            Atlantic City, USA        L TKO  9
        WBC Light Middleweight Title

1998-09-25 Dana Rosenblatt           Mashantucket, USA         L UD  12
        International Boxing Association Middleweight Title
1998-11-30 Laurent Boudouani         Paris, France             L TKO  9
        WBA World Light Middleweight Title

Advertise Now On RSR

Purchase Boxing Interviews Of A Lifetime

Leave a Reply