How Great Was Terry Norris?

If you were asked to answer the question, who is the greatest fighter ever who had the worst chin, would you perhaps say the name Terry Norris? Norris, who today celebrates his 54th birthday, was a sensational fighter in his prime – fast hands, chilling power, enormous heart, an exciting style.

And a weak chin. Norris reigned as pound-for-pound king for a while and he defeated some excellent fighters, yet during his career, Norris was KO’d or stopped four times and he was knocked down or wobbled and hurt multiple times.

Norris, like so many fighters, also fought on for too long, and today the former three-time 154-pound champ is not in the greatest of health.

But how great was Norris? 47-9(31) at the end, with “Terrible” losing his last three, this when he was past his best, his chin and ability to take a good shot even more compromised, Norris certainly lit up the sport.

Going pro in 1986, Norris lost a decision in his 13th fight, he was DQ’d for belting a guy who was down in his 15th pro fight, and Norris was iced by the murderous-punching Julian Jackson in his first attempt at winning a world title, this in his 24th fight. But from the Jackson fight of July of 1989 until December of 1993, Norris never lost again.

Norris ruined John “The Beast” Mugabi to become WBC light-middleweight champ in March of 1990 and he went on to retain the belt no less than ten times, Norris beating men like Sugar Ray Leonard (in Sugar’s last-but-one fight), Don Curry, Jorge Castro, Meldrick Taylor, and Maurice Blocker. Then, in December of ’93, Norris’ chin let him down in spectacular fashion as Simon Brown scored the big upset in knocking him out in the fourth round.

Norris boxed quite brilliantly in the rematch, scoring a wide decision over Brown to become a two-time champ. Then came a totally bizarre three-fight series with Luis Santana, with Norris being thrown out twice, once for hitting his overmatched foe in the back of the head in fight-one, and then for hitting Santana after the bell in the return. Finally, in fight-three, Norris got rid of this irritable thorn in his side. Norris was now a three-time champion.

Eight wins followed, over good fighters, before Norris was stunned by Keith Mullings, then by Dana Rosenblatt, and then, in his final fight, by Laurent Boudani. Norris was now 31 years old and he had been fighting as a pro for 12 years. So how great was Norris?

When we look at the number of world title fights he had (25), and when we look at how many of these world title fights he won (19), it’s clear Norris had an amazing career. In terms of quality of opposition, Norris gets high marks (the big fight he really wanted was one with Julio Cesar Chavez, and it goes without saying how much bigger a legend Norris would be today if he had got that fight and had won it).

Norris won plenty of belts – the WBC belt three times, along with the IBF title, which he won in 1995; Norris also being the lineal champ at 154 from December of ’95 until his loss to Mullings in December of ’97. Norris was a special fighter, a talented guy who had astonishing courage. In short, Norris gave his all each time he fought. He is paying the price today.

Norris was great but he could have been greater.