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Norris, Trinidad to fight after Saturday tuneups

January 10, 1997

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Strange things happen when Terry Norris gets in the ring. So even though his fight Saturday against Nick Rupa appears to be little more than a tuneup for a megafight against Felix Trinidad, his manager still worries.

``Terry never looks past fights because things seem to happen in this game, especially to him,″ manager Joe Sayatovich said. ``He can’t look past anybody because of that.″

Norris is an overwhelming favorite to defend his IBF and WBC 154-pound titles against Rupa, the IBF’s seventh-ranked contender, in the scheduled 12-round bout at Nashville’s new downtown arena.

But he was also a huge favorite in two title fights against Luis Santana. Both times Santana left the ring on a stretcher. Both times, he was declared the winner because of late or illegal blows by Norris.

As a pro, Norris has lost six times. Three of them have been by disqualification.

Norris vows it will never happen again.

``I love both my titles and there’s no way anyone is going to take them away from me in any way,″ Norris said.

Norris and Trinidad fight in separate fights as part of a card of four title bouts that will be the first sporting event in Nashville’s new arena.

Like Norris, Trinidad is a heavy favorite in his IBF welterweight title defense against England’s Kevin Lueshing. It will be the 12th title fight for the Puerto Rican champion, who turns 24 today and has not lost in 30 fights.

``He’s an aggressive fighter and I like aggressive fighters,″ Trinidad said of Lueshing. ``It will be a knockout, but I don’t know exactly when.″

Both fighters are already looking past the bouts to a late May or early June meeting for the two titles held by Norris. That fight already is signed and will make both Trinidad and Norris several million dollars.

``When I beat Norris, I’ll show everybody I’m the best fighter, pound for pound, in the world,″ said Trinidad, who has 26 knockouts. ``I’ve had good fights with very good fighters, but this one will be very special.″

Trinidad, who has had trouble making the 147-pound welterweight limit, will move up in weight to challenge Norris for his titles in a highly anticipated matchup of two big punchers who also are stylish boxers.

``The great fighters have to fight other great fighters to be truly considered great,″ Sayatovich said. ``These are two fighters willing to do that.″

First, though, Norris has to beat Rupa and Trinidad has to get by Lueshing in fights Saturday that have titles at stake but appear to be little more than tuneups for each boxer.

``Don’t blink, you’ll miss the fight,″ said Norris (44-6, 28 knockouts), who has more KOs than Rupa (26-4-1) has wins.

The fights are part of a card that also features Frankie Randall in a defense of the WBA 140-pound title against France’s Kahlid Rahilou, the WBA’s top-ranked contender, and Henry Akinwande in a WBO heavyweight title defense against fellow Briton Scott Welch.

The Akinwande-Welch fight marks the first time two British fighters have fought for a heavyweight title in the United States, although the WBO crown is considered to be a fringe title at best.

Akinwande, who gave Russian Alexandre Zolkin a beating on the Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield undercard, is 31-1 with 19 knockouts, while Welch is 19-2 with 16 knockouts.

Akinwande vowed at Thursday’s final pre-fight press conference to dispose of Welch within three rounds after Welch taunted him and tried to go after him while the two posed for pictures.

``I should of decked him right there,″ Akinwande said.

Conspiciously absent from the card is Christy Martin, who has captured wide attention in the past year as a female fighter on the undercards of Tyson bouts.

Martin was dropped from the card earlier this week after King said she cut her lip in training, but she claimed that she was willing to fight. Martin reportedly has been in discussions with King rival Main Events Inc. for possible representation.

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