Ken Norton, who fought three memorable fights with Muhammad Ali, breaking his jaw in winning their first bout, then losing twice, and went on to become the World Boxing Council heavyweight champion, died Wednesday in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson. He was 70.
His death was confirmed by his son Ken Jr., an assistant coach with the N.F.L.’s Seattle Seahawks and a pro linebacker for 13 seasons, The Associated Press said. Norton had been in poor health for several years after sustaining a series of strokes, The A.P. reported.
Norton defeated Ali on a 12-round split decision in 1973 to capture the North American Boxing Federation heavyweight title. Norton was an exceptionally muscular 6 feet 2 and 220 pounds but a decided underdog in that first Ali fight.
“Ali thought it would be an easy fight,” Norton’s former manager, Gene Kilroy, was quoted by The A.P. as saying. “But Norton was unorthodox. Instead of jabbing from above like most fighters, he would put his hand down and jab up at Ali.”
Kilroy said that after the fight, Norton visited Ali at the hospital where he was getting his broken jaw wired, and Ali told him he never wanted to fight him again.
But the second bout in their trilogy came six months later when Ali came back to win a narrow split decision. Ali retained his World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association titles when he defeated Norton on a decision in their final bout, at Yankee Stadium in September 1976.
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