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Norris Takes Title From Brown : Boxing: McLellan stops Jackson in first. Leija ends Nelson's reign with unanimous decision.

May 08, 1994|TIM KAWAKAMI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LAS VEGAS — A grinning, assured, immeasurably wiser and nimbler Terry Norris found redemption, regained his World Boxing Council super-welterweight title and showcased a blazing new fighting style in a unanimous decision over Simon Brown Saturday night at the MGM Grand.

Norris, whose knockout loss to Brown last December raised serious questions about both his chin and aggressive style, dominated Brown Saturday night by moving in for bursts of action, then immediately swooping away from any danger.

"He outmoved me and he outboxed me," said Brown, whose record dropped to 41-3. "He moved a lot. I expected that, but he just wouldn't stand still at all."

Norris (38-4) won easily on all three cards. He said he hurt his right hand in the first round, which increased his desire to stay out of a war.

"I thought the difference was I was able to move," Norris said. "I boxed superbly. I think I surprised Simon Brown more than anybody by my ability to box, and I'm pleased with my performance."

In the two other undercard rematches, Gerald McClellan retained his WBC middleweight title--and improved on his earlier knockout of Julian Jackson--with a vicious series of punches that led to a first-round knockout.

In the first fight, James Leija knocked around Azumah Nelson enough to emerge with a unanimous decision and the WBC super-featherweight title, eight months after their first fight was ruled a draw.

Before his rematch, Norris said he had learned his lesson from his chin-first, knockout-or-be-knocked-out attack in the first Brown fight, and he never wandered from his stick-and-move game plan.

In the second round, Norris hurt Brown early with a straight left hand on the chin and followed it up 30 seconds later with three chopping right hands on the forehead of a bending Brown.

In between attacks, Norris stuck to his strategy of moving away from danger and, in the early going, was not touched with anything heavy. But Brown rocked him in the third with a right to the chin, and Norris' retreats got quicker after that.

"Tonight was Boxing 101," said Norris' manager, Joe Sayatovich.

When Brown started to showboat in the fourth, circling his right hand high as a taunt, Norris crushed Brown with a huge left hook under Brown's right arm that sent Brown whirling against the ropes.

By the 11th, Brown was clearly frustrated with the unsuccessful chase, and several times in the round backed away--demanding that Norris come to him, which only shortened the time Brown had to make up lost ground.

The McClellan-Jackson fight, in contrast, was all power and brutal efficiency.

A devastating left-right combination by McClellan 10 seconds into the fight wobbled Jackson, and he absorbed about 30 unanswered shots against the ropes before sliding to the canvas to get a slip stoppage.

But the end, judging by Jackson's suddenly vacant eyes, was inevitable, and soon.

Ten seconds later, McClellan (31-2, 29 KOs) slapped a sizzling left hook to the body that crumpled Jackson forward, achingly slow, to the canvas. After it was clear Jackson (49-3) was dazed beyond recovery, referee Joe Cortez stopped the fight at 1:23 of the round.

"Whenever I hit him," McClellan said, "I knew he was going to go."

A year ago, Jackson and McClellan exchanged bombs for four rounds before a sharp McClellan right hand led to a fifth-round technical knockout victory.

In a far more active fight than the tactical, mostly passionless, first bout between the two, a sharper, stronger Leija (28-0-2) caught a charging Nelson with a sweeping overhand right to the side of the head in the second round, which sent Nelson to the canvas.

"The knockdown surprised me," Leija said. "That one caught him right on the button."

Later, a frustrated Nelson (37-3-2) was penalized a point in the ninth round by referee Mitch Halpern for a low blow.

By the 12th, it was clear that the reign of Nelson, 35, who had made 10 successful defenses of his title and was the longest-holding world champion, had come to an end.

"I hurt my left hand, I couldn't jab," Nelson said. "Maybe I'll retire."

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