Twenty-four stitches were required to sew Waters's face back together, but he had made an exciting fight of it. "I was one punch away from a world championship," he said afterward, not altogether accurately.
Morris, ordinarily charitable to beaten foes, was embarrassed by the knockdown, and at the postfight press conference he told Waters's manager. Bruce Kennedy, "I destroyed your boy tonight. He's so cut up he may never fight again."
Norris's own ability to get off the floor and win was elaborately praised. "It is the mark of a champion," said Sayatovich. "Think of how many times Sugar Ray Leonard got up from a knockdown to comeback like that."
Don King, the fight's promoter, compared Norris favorably with John Paul Jones, although his history was a bit skewed. According to King, "When John Paul Jones was on the Serapis [that was the British frigate; Jones was on the Bonhomme Richard] and Cornwallis [who was an army general and nowhere near the action] asked him to surrender, old John Paul just said, 'Sir, I have not yet begun to fight.' That was Terry Norris tonight."
Actually, Norris has just begun to fight for King, having signed a four-bout deal that began with the Waters fight and may culminate in a match late this fall with the winner of a middleweight title bout between champion Reggie Johnson and Julian Jackson. Jackson, who was knocked out by current WBC middleweight title-holder Gerald McLellan last month, was an interested spectator at the Waters fight. Soft-spoken and bespectacled, he congratulated both boxers, sympathizing with Waters because, he said, "in my fight with McLellan I, too, couldn't see because of cuts, and I was in with a powerful puncher." Norris would like nothing more than to avenge his loss of four years ago, but whatever the outcome in August, a middleweight title is what he and Sayatovich are fervently pursuing.
"We'll take any of the top four super welters in between," says Sayatovich, his spiky gray beard bristling. "But we want only titleholders among the middles. Terry fights 160-pound guys all the time in the gym and beats them. He wouldn't really have to go up much from 154 pounds, anyway. It all depends on what you put in your mouth. We can train him down to 148 or 149, as we did for Meldrick Taylor [a fourth-round knockout for Norris on May 9, 1992], or up to 155 or more, depending on how much he eats. You take a guy like James Toney [the IBF super middleweight champion]. He's really a middleweight fighting at 168. He'd be an excellent fight for Terry. So would Roy Jones, a legitimate middle."
Since he terminated Ray Leonard's career—apologizing after the Feb. 9, 1991, fight for having to be the one to do it—and KO'd Taylor, Norris has not established himself as the box-office star he deserves to be. His obscure division is part of the problem—thus the planned move up to middleweight. And Sayatovich firmly believes that King may be the solution. "Whatever problems others have had with him are not ours," he says. The Waters fight drew an announced crowd of 11,646, but King admits that he papered the house, doling out freebies lo more than 4,000 local naval personnel.
The biggest payday for Norris would be with that other King bauble, Chavez, who will fight Pernell Whitaker for the WBC welterweight title on Sept. 10. Norris would have to drop some pounds for that one, or Ch�vez would have to put on some, but Sayatovich docs not rule out the possibility of this dream match. It won't be soon, though. "I think what will happen," says Sayatovich, "is that Don King will parallel the two of them for a while, and then when Ch�vez is ready for one last blowout, we'll have the fight. And that will be some payday."
Norris is in no rush. "I'm not going to wait for Ch�vez," he says, "and he's not going to wait for me. I'm just going to keep moving on."
And, presumably, up.