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Boxing Notes : Why Won't Mike Tyson Fight Orlin Norris?

August 06, 1989|WALLACE MATTHEWS | Newsday

NEW YORK — Who is Orlin Norris and why doesn't Mike Tyson want to fight him?

The easy answer is that Norris is a small, slippery, quick-handed heavyweight with a style it is impossible to look good against, even if you beat him. So far, only one man has, and that was early in Norris' career.

But to claim, as ESPN's Al Bernstein and Barry Tompkins did on Tuesday night, that Tyson is ducking Norris, well, now you're stretching the truth, and I don't mean Carl Williams. Norris, 23, is a rarity in heavyweight boxing: a 5-9, 209-pound fireplug who looks as solid as a brick outhouse but hits like a feather. In his 22 wins -- he outpointed journeyman Dee Collier in a boring 12-rounder Tuesday night -- Norris has just nine KOs. What is probably working against Norris more than anything is that he has fought his last six fights for promoter Bob Arum, the arch-rival of Tyson's promoter, Don King.

"That could be the case," said Norris, who lets his manager, Joe Sayatovice, handle the out-of-the-ring battles. "Firsthand, I don't know much about Don King, but I've heard a lot about him, and from what I hear, well, I don't know. But if that's the only way the fight could happen ..."

Seems that way, when you consider the only people being mentioned as possible Tyson opponents -- Buster Douglas, Jose Ribalta, Greg Page, Michael Dokes -- are or have been King fighters. A Tyson-Norris fight would be a far more attractive matchup, if for no reason other than the unique style of Norris. "Me and Tyson, we're pretty much the same height and weight and build," Norris said. "But we're very different fighters. I don't think his style would work against me. I think I'd frustrate the hell out of him."

Norris has seen Tyson walk through a succession of big, tall heavyweights, but is unimpressed. You see, he has been in the same position in every one of his fights. "Fighting big guys is easy," he said. "Once you get underneath a big guy, there's nothing for him to do. He panics. His height works against him."

So far, Norris' style has worked against him. Recently, Evander Holyfield, George Foreman, Tim Witherspoon and Mike Weaver have turned him down. But he sees a plus in his lackluster showing against Collier. "I've been having problems getting anyone to fight me," he said. "Maybe this will help."

The Reno, Nev., training camp of Iran Barkley, where the Blade is preparing for his Aug. 14 challenge to IBF middleweight champ Michael Nunn, is looking more like a hospital ward. First it was Barkley himself, who got his lower lip busted up by an assortment of sparring partners and was forced to miss a couple days of sparring. Wednesday, it was manager John Reetz, who broke a hand fooling around in the ring with assistant trainer Dub Huntley. "I hit him in the shoulder," said Reetz, known as Doonesbury because of his misleading yuppie-nerd persona. "Hurts like hell."

Anyway, Reetz has brought a new "adviser" into the Barkley circle -- a character named Ahmed Bey, known around Las Vegas as a professional gambler who has lost half a fortune betting against Michael Nunn, no matter whom he is fighting. No doubt he will jump all over Barkley, an 8-1 underdog. Reetz admits he was not happy with Barkley's corner in the Blade's losing fight with Roberto Duran in February, and dismissed trainer Al "Potato Pie" Bolden. For Nunn, Bey will run the corner, along with veteran New York trainer Victor Machado.

Bey's main qualification, according to Reetz, is that "he thinks Nunn's a phony."

Nunn's camp is not exactly upset that Bey will be working against them once again. "I always tell Ahmed, 'Make me feel good. Just tell me you bet against Nunn,"' said trainer Joe Goossen. "Because every time you bet against him, you lose your shirt."

What, exactly, is Bey's boxing background? "None," said Top Rank's Ron Katz. "He's a camel jockey from Saudi Arabia. Now he's just a gambler who hangs around the fight game."

In truth, Bey was born in Bayonne, N.J., and is a former U.S. Army boxing coach. But what wisdom can he impart to Barkley for a fight with probably the world's best pound-for-pound fighter? Said Katz: "He can tell him when to double-down at blackjack."

Better he should tell him when to hit.

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