Sugar Ray Leonard gives the impression he wants to settle matters early tonight when he challenges junior middleweight champion Terry Norris.
At 34, Leonard is 11 years older than the World Boxing Council champion so he wants to avoid a prolonged battle in their scheduled 12-rounder at Madison Square Garden. He also expects Norris to take a few rounds to get started in the biggest fight of his life, and Leonard wants to impress critics who think he has slipped.In gym workouts, Leonard has stood flat-footed and slugged with sparring partners rather than move around them like he did in his last bout against Roberto Duran 14 months ago. Leonard realizes a loss - or even an unimpressive victory - could mean the end to his boxing career.
"I'm not going to let him get any confidence whatsoever," Leonard said of Norris. "I have to break him down. I have a tendency to adapt to a fighter and make him do what I want him to do.
"It's almost like reprimanding a kid. Terry Norris is like my son."
Norris was knocked out in the second round by Julian Jackson in his first world title fight, but bounced back to stop John "The Beast" Mugabi in one round for the WBC title eight months later. Even in
losing to Jackson, Norris had a big first round - so maybe Leonard should be wary early. But he says he does not expect a quick start by the champion.
"Once we get in the ring, it's him and me," Leonard said. "I hope like hell he freezes.
"He's going to take a few rounds to get a taste and by then I'll have a few rounds in the bank. I'm going to gamble, I'm going for it all, I'm not going to hold back. This is Broadway."
Norris points to victories against Jorge Vaca in Mexico and Rene Jacquot in France in his first title defense as proof he will stand up to the pressure of facing Leonard at Madison square Garden.
"He's making a mistake if he thinks I'll be intimidated," Norris said. "I've been through a lot. I went over to France and fought before a hostile crowd of 23,000 people. I went over to Mexico and fought before a hostile crowd of 10,000 people.
"I'm not intimidated at all."
Leonard, of Potomac, Md., is 36-1-1 and Norris, of Campo, Calif., is 26-3 with 14 knockouts. The fight will be televised by Showtime.