Boxing history is filled with its share of bizarre episodes. Certainly ranking towards the top of that list is the trilogy between Terry Norris and Luis Santana.
The final chapter of their trilogy was hosted at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on the early afternoon of August 19. Boxing fans around the world were in a frenzy as, just hours later that same night in the same building, Mike Tyson was making his long anticipated return against a Hurricane, Peter McNeely.
The year was 1995.
Norris and Santana had a storied history. Their first meeting, in Mexico City, was in November of 1994. Although he suffered a flash knockdown in the third round, Norris was in command of the affair until the fifth round rolled in.
Norris clipped Santana on the back of the head sending him down to the canvas. After several minutes, Santana, who was removed from the ring on a stretcher, had also removed Norris’ Super Welterweight title in the process by a disqualification.
Norris was furious, accusing Santana of faking the severity of the blow.
Five months later, in April of 1995, the two met again at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Norris, a 13-1 favorite, was determined to exact revenge. The former champion looked sharp, dominating Santana and dropping him in the second and third round.
After referee Kenny Bayless, broke the fighters from a clinch, the bell sounded to end the third round. Norris, who later said he didn’t hear the bell, scalded Santana with a right hand to the chin. Santana collapsed to the mat and again left the ring on a stretcher, and with his title.
After months of anguish and irritation, Norris would get an opportunity to set the record straight.
Broadcast live on ABC Wide World of Sports, Alex Wallau and Dan Dierdorf sat ringside to call the third installment of this unique trilogy.
Wallau set the stage, “In my opinion, I believe he was conscious throughout. In my opinion, he was faking the effect of those blows in order to get his opponent disqualified. And while I hate to see illegal punches go unpunished, I also hate to see fakery get rewarded.”
At age 36, Santana attacked Norris from the opening bell. Outfitted in red trunks with blue and white trim, the champion looked to back his challenger up and land one big punch.
Norris, 28, sported red trunks with white trim. Bouncing on his toes and playing defense, the challenger began to open up and fire combinations of his own. Coming down the stretch of Round 1, Norris belted the champion with a left hook that bombed home flush on Santana’s chin.
The champion reeled into a corner as Wallau screamed over the roar of the crowd inside the MGM Grand, “Santana is hurt!”
After surviving the first, Santana came out for Round 2. Norris stepped up the attack, blistering the champion with straight right hands and left hooks. As the action moved to center ring, Norris strafed the champion with a sensational left hook followed by a punishing right hand.
Dierdorf’s voice rose as the champion crashed to the canvas, “Oh! A combination from Norris puts Santana down! Luis Santana will continue but you wonder for how long!”
The champion rose and took the standing eight count from referee Joe Cortez. Norris swarmed an overmatched and outgunned Santana, hammering him to the head and to the body. The champion desperately tried to hold on and weather the storm.
Norris would not allow it. Relentless, the challenger pounded a right cross to the champion’s head sending him spiraling into the ropes and down for a second time.
Dierdorf wailed, “There’s another right hand! A short chopping right hand from Norris right on the ear of Santana!” The champion again rose, taking the standing eight count from Cortez.
Norris, who was in total command, smelled blood and went for the kill. As Santana tried to fire back, Norris bent his knees, ducked the incoming punches from the champion, and countered with a blistering right hand that sent Santana down for the third time in the round.
Cortez immediately went to a knee, left arm around the now former champion while waiving his right hand high above his head, signaling an end to the combat. With the ringside crowd on its feet, Wallau hollered over the cheers, “And that’s it!”
Norris screamed in anger at his opponent while Cortez clutched Santana after having helped him to his feet. Wallau saw Norris seething, “And you see the bitterness in Terry Norris. He went over and yelled at a man who he felt had cheated him out of his title.”
Norris had reclaimed what he believed all along was rightfully his and ended one of the more fascinating chapters in boxing history.