Ken Norton (left) trades hard jabs with Muhammad Ali during their first fight at the Sports Arena in San Diego on March 31, 1973. Norton, a huge underdog, broke Ali’s jaw en route to a split decision victory, the signature fight of his hall-of-fame career.
Former heavyweight champion Ken Norton died Wednesday, according to several reports. He was 70.
Norton was in an Arizona hospital rehabilitating from a stroke suffered this year when he died, his friend, Patrick Tenore, told the Los Angeles Times. The Times reported that he had congestive heart failure.
Norton is best known for his three fights against Muhammad Ali in the 1970s. The longtime San Diego resident broke Ali’s jaw in the first fight in 1973, which Norton won by split decision, but lost the rematch (split decision) the same year and rubber match (unanimous decision) in 1976. The last fight was for the WBC and WBA heavyweight titles Ali had taken from George Foreman.
Some believe Norton should’ve been awarded all three decisions.
Norton (42-7-1, 33 knockouts) fought Foreman for the WBC and WBA titles in March 1974, immediately after his second fight with Ali, but went down three times and was stopped in the second round.
He was awarded the WBC heavyweight title in March 1978 but lost it by a split decision in an epic 15-round battle with Larry Holmes that June. Norton, who notched victories over top-10 contenders such as Gerry Quarry, Duane Bobick and Jimmy Young, never again fought for a world title.
His last fight was a first-round knockout loss to Gerry Cooney in May 1981.
Norton was involved in a near-fatal car accident in 1986 and his health was never the same after that.
He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992.
Also read: Ken Norton Q&A
Photos / THE RING