Former heavyweight boxing champion Ken Norton, Sr. died yesterday of congestive heart failure. He was 70.
Norton turned pro in 1967 after boxing in the U.S. Marine Corps. He compiled a 29-1 record, but was largely an unknown fighter when he got a title shot to face Muhammad Ali for the North American Boxing Federation Heavyweight Championship in March 1973. After that fight, Norton would be unknown no more.
Norton won a 12-round split decision against Ali, becoming only the second man to best “The Greatest” in the ring following Joe Frazier. During the bout, Norton fractured Ali’s jaw.
However, less than six months later, Norton would lose a rematch against Ali albeit by a split decision. In March 1974, Norton fought George Foreman for the WBA & WBC Heavyweight Championship. However, the match was stopped in the second round after Foreman knocked down Norton thrice.
Norton would win his next seven fights before facing Ali for the third and final time at Yankee Stadium in September 1976. Ali would win the fight on yet another split decision, but boxing observers believe that Norton should have won that fight.
In 1978, Norton would be awarded the WBC Heavyweight Title after Leon Spinks opted for a rematch with Ali rather than face Norton. However, Norton’s reign would be shortlived as he lost a 15-round decision against Larry Holmes later that year.
Although Norton would earn a victory Randall “Tex” Cobb, he could only fight Scott LeDoux to a draw and sustained first round knockouts at the hands of Earnie Shavers and Gerry Cooney. Norton retired following the loss to Cooney in 1981.
After his boxing career, Norton dabbled in acting with appearances on TV shows like The A-Team and Knight Rider. Unfortunately, his acting career was derailed following a near fatal car accident in 1986. Norton’s health gradually declined thereafter and last year suffered a stroke.
His son, Ken Norton, Jr., became a successful athlete in his own right playing 13 seasons in the NFL as a linebacker with the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers. The younger Norton became the first NFL player to earn three consecutive Super Bowl rings. He is currently part of the Seattle Seahawks coaching staff.
When Norton, Jr. would score a touchdown, he would punch the goal posts as a tribute to his father.
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