TO look at him, you wouldn’t believe the man sitting opposite is a 49-year-old damaged by boxing. Terry Norris’ strikingly handsome features look much younger, he’s impeccably dressed, and on his arm is his stunning wife and best friend, Tanya. Aesthetically, they are perfect. They appear more suited to Hollywood, California, and a glitzy premier, rather than Florida’s lesser known Hollywood, which hosts the WBC convention where we all meet.
Tanya looks at her husband almost all the time, smiling softly, asking him questions, making sure he’s okay. He nods, smiles a million-dollar smile, but he’ll never be okay. At least not in the way that he used to be when he was a million-dollar fighter. They met in 2009, 10 years after Norris was forced to retire from boxing when doctors were alarmed by his deterioration, and four years after he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. When they came together, Norris was struggling badly. Lost and confused, “Terrible” Terry was heading for the abyss that captures so many of his kind.
“At first I wasn’t really sure what was wrong with him,” Tanya says as Norris acknowledges yet another fan who walks by and calls out his name. “I started Googling fighters who had got injured and things like that, and started to see that he might have some issues that he didn’t address, that he didn’t know, that he was unaware of. It was a progressive condition. He knew he had something because he was already permanently disabled when I met him. Dr [Margaret] Goodman wouldn’t allow him to fight, which was in 1999. Then in 2000 he was registered disabled permanently, but there wasn’t any therapy or real diagnosis, and there still isn’t, not 100 per cent. It’s chronic Traumatic Pugilistic Dementia, it’s Parkinsonism [a form of Parkinson’s Disease]. They say now it’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy [CTE].”