It seemed unlikely that he would in this fight. Curry, 29, a former undisputed welterweight champion, once was touted as being the heir to Leonard as the best boxer, pound-for-pound, in the world. After losing four of his last 12 bouts, dating back to 1986, he was making his last stand. "It's the end of the rope," said Curry, a 4-to-1 underdog, the day before the fight. "I have no more rope."
Norris, who made a reported $750,000 for the third defense of his title—Curry was paid $115,000—seemed to agree. " Donald Curry is not going to be able to put up a good fight," said Norris.
The bout was part of a co-main event (in the other match, WBA welterweight champion Meldrick Taylor won a 12-round split decision over an unknown Venezuelan named Luis Garcia) that drew 4,800 fans to the Radisson's temporary outdoor arena on a cool and breezy desert evening. Curry, who despite his setbacks has remained a fearsome puncher, vowed to take the fight to Norris, and, indeed he came out throwing straight hard punches. Norris, who later said his plan had been to stick and move, was soon flatfooted, forced to bang away inside with short uppercuts and hooks. He seemed a far cry from the slashing, dangerous boxer who thrashed Leonard.
"I wanted to knock him out," said Norris afterward, trying to explain why he had abandoned his fight plan. "I started thinking, I beat Leonard. I beat the legend. Can't nobody touch me."
However, for a while at least, Curry touched him, coming over the top with crisp hooks and counterrights. For seven rounds it was a competitive, rough fight. Norris would later accuse Curry of dirty tactics, including head butts and low blows, but Norris repeatedly hit on breaks and, as we shall see, struck the most questionable punch of all.
Although Curry clearly was beginning to fade, the end came suddenly. In the closing seconds of Round 8, after a left-right combination by Curry seemed to sting the champion, Norris fired back with a series of punches. A straight right hurt Curry. A second right toppled him. Curry was on his knees when Norris, lunging in, caught him flush with another right. Norris had done the same thing in the Leonard fight. Referee Chuck Hasset, who showed little control throughout the bout, ignored the questionable blow and counted Curry out with seven seconds left in the round.
In a postfight press conference, Norris's camp seemed unsure of what the future might bring. "We're looking for a fight," said Sayatovich, who is now his manager. "Whoever is credible."
A few feet away, Kelly, radiant in a long red dress, watched her husband. Yes. she admitted, her husband had changed since the Leonard fight. "Now Terry has a much bigger fear of losing his title," she said. "He talks about it constantly. He doesn't want the public to think his win over Leonard was a fluke."
The Leonard fight was no fluke. Nor was last Saturday's beating of Curry. But neither bout was the one Norris needs. He still needs that one great opponent.