Terry Norris: A Retrospective
By Rob Scott (April 16, 2005) 
Everyone has his or her favorites. The debates on hypothetical match-ups between past and present fighters are endless. Oh what I wouldn’t give to have a machine that, even if it was for my eyes only, could allow me to view hypothetical match-ups between old and new fighters at their very best. Imagine seeing Ali vs. Tyson, Hopkins vs. Hagler, Mayweather vs. Duran, Etc., all in their prime. With names like Mosley, De La Hoya, Trinidad, Vargas, Ouma and Wright all making major headlines in the 154lbs division from the very last years of the 90’s until now, I wonder what would have happened if those same fighters faced ‘Terrible’ Terry Norris when he was the 154lb king?

Just what was your perception of Terry Norris? Because perception in many cases is just what boxing is about. One could actually be as good as he is perceived, but on the other hand, one could be living off of a bogus media made aura. Norris didn’t have the HBO backed names of De La Hoya, Vargas and others to add to his resume. But even if he did, would he have given any of those guys ‘Terrible’ beatings, like he gave to Meldrick Taylor and Maurice Blocker, or would he have put on ‘Terrible’ showings, like he did with Simon Brown in their first fight?

Boxing has a vast history of fighters who’ve made mistakes. From training to acquaintances, fighters have made many wrong decisions. True indeed, individual fighters are different and what effects one may not affect another, but complacency is one error that many of the best have fell victim to – and Norris was no different. After Norris’s ’91 victory over ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard in defense of his WBC super welterweight title, the world was acknowledging ‘Terrible’ Terry as one of, if not, the best in the game. Subsequent match-up after he faced Leonard though, lacked that signature name. Names like Donald Curry and Taylor appeared, but they had already seen their best days. It seemed that going through the division with ease made Norris make a boxing sin in becoming complacent. Complacency could be used as the reason for his ’93 loss to Simon Brown, as the rematch showed an on-point Norris at his boxing best.

Whether fighters of today reap the benefits of true talent or they are the recipients of media hype, in hindsight, names like Vargas, Wright, Mosley and others could have been the fighters to keep Norris on his boxing toes. These fighters could have brought out an overall prime Terry Norris; as physical prime is always a necessity, but mental prime is a must as well. Mental prime enables a fighter to curb the ego and acknowledge his opponents strengths and his own weaknesses. He would have had to respect Trinidad’s power, Vargas’s tenacity, Wright’s size and stance and even Ouma’s angles and punch out-put. Doing so would have made Norris more strategic, as the rematch with Brown showed Norris taking a more methodical approach. In a nutshell, he would have respected these guys more.

As if he had a bullhorn, Norris would call out Pernell Whitaker and Oscar De La Hoya after every bout. It was just as how Hopkins called out Trinidad, De La Hoya and Vargas, but fortunately for Hopkins, Trinidad and De La Hoya were names that eventually answered his call; Norris on the other hand, didn’t have any named takers. Fast forward to ’97 and names like Trinidad and De La Hoya started to come into fruition, but by this time, Norris wasn’t the same. Defeats at the hands of Keith Mullings, Dana Rosenblatt and Laurent Boudouani made it extremely clear that Norris’s best days had come and gone.    

The undeniable perceptions of Norris were ones of power, speed and definite skills. We will only be able to come up with hypothetical outcomes when thinking of him against today’s best, as we will never know. One thing we do know is Norris was one of the best. The International Boxing Hall of Fame will acknowledge Norris’s contribution at their annual induction ceremony in June. The way he ruled the 154lb roost, Norris’s induction is well deserved. But I still can’t help but wonder if Norris, at his best, was around today, how much of an impact would he make? Would the names of today even be spoken at the154lb mark? Again, we will never know.

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