Rip Ken Norton. He wasn’t the greatest heavyweight of all-time, but he most certainly hung tough with the best of them.
Norton beat Ali, broke his jaw in fact, for the signature victory of his career, in 1973.
Those were great times in the boxing world, a time when heavyweights mattered, particularly those born in the USA. I consider myself a boxing fan and have covered countless championship fights, but have completely tuned out the heavyweight division.
It’s a rubble of mediocrity. If it were pay-per-view, they’d have to pay me to watch.
But I digress. Norton and Ali were prime antagonists in one of the best trilogies in boxing history. Norton broke Ali’s jaw in the first bout, when he defeated Ali on a 12-round split decision in 1973 to capture the North American Boxing Federation heavyweight title.
“Ali thought it would be an easy fight,” Norton’s former manager, Gene Kilroy told the Associated Press at the time. “But Norton was unorthodox. Instead of jabbing from above like most fighters, he would put his hand down and jab up at Ali.”
Norton lost the second bout six months later after Ali rallied to win a split decision. Ali retained his World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association titles in their final bout, when he defeated Norton before a crowd of more than 30,000 at Yankee Stadium in September 1976.
All those are distant memories now.
Boxing is on the ropes, most certainly not a mainstream sport, and its signature star _ Floyd Mayweather Jr. _ is one of the biggest jerks on the planet.
Boxing is sometimes referred to as the “Gentlemen’s Sport.”
Gentlemen like Ken Norton epitomized that by visiting Ali in the hospital where he was getting his broken jaw wired, after the first fight.
Let’s hope Money Mayweather is taking notes.
RIP Ken Norton.