Ken Norton Sr.,
an International Boxing Hall of
Famer who is recognized by pundits as one of the greatest heavyweights in the
sport's history, died Wednesday after a long battle with congestive heart
He was 70 years old.
Norton, whose professional boxing career spanned three
decades, died at an Arizona hospital where he had been undergoing rehabilitation
due to complications stemming from a stroke, according to the Los Angeles Times'
Claire Noland. Norton had previously overcome two strokes, a heart
attack, quadruple bypass surgery and prostate cancer.
The former heavyweight champ is perhaps best known by boxing
fans for his trilogy of fights against Muhammad Ali in 1973 and 1976. In
the first bout between the two men, held at the San Diego Sports Arena, Norton
shocked the world by defeating Ali in a split-decision and breaking his
jaw in the process.
Ali would get revenge with controversial victories in
their next two fightsone later in 1973 and the other in 1976but Norton's
victory over Ali in their first fight made him a star. He parlayed that
notoriety into a fight against George Foreman in 1974, and a title win
over Jerry Quarry in 1975 when Ali had vacated the strap.
Though Norton would lose the belt back to Ali
in 1976, he would be awarded the WBC championship a year later. Larry
Holmes defeated a declining Norton in 1978, ending a championship
run that had lasted parts of five years.
Inside the sport of boxing, Norton is well-known for
popularizing the cross-armed defense. Rarely seen before Norton employed
the tactic to success early in his careermost notably against Alimultiple
other heavyweights began adopting it.
Norton, though, had perfected the craft. Where other
fighters who used cross-armed protection often struggled with counterpunching,
Norton's hands were quick enough that he rarely had that problem. He
finished with a career record of 42-7-1 with 33 knockout victories. His last
fight came in 1981, when he was knocked out by Gerry Cooney at Madison
After Norton's boxing career, he worked in the
entertainment industry as an actor and commentator. He appeared in television
shows like The A-Team and Knight Rider during the 1980s.
Norton is survived by his two sons, one of which is
former NFL linebacker Ken Norton Jr., who won three Super Bowls over his
13-year career with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers. played football
at UCLA and had a long successful career in the NFL. In tribute to his father's
boxing career, Ken Jr. would strike a boxing stance in the end zone each
time he scored a defensive touchdown and throw a punching combination at the
goalpost pad. He is currently the linebackers coach for the Seattle Seahawks.
His other other son, Keith Norton, was once the weekend sports anchor
for KPRC in Houston, Texas.
ADDED BY IAB
Ken Norton was twice voted "Father of the Year"
by the Los Angeles Sentinel and the Los Angeles Times in 1977. To quote Norton
from his biography, Believe: Journey From Jacksonville: "Of all the
titles that I've been privileged to have, the title of 'dad' has always been the
His son, Ken Norton Jr, He is now the linebackers'
coach for the Seattle Seahawks.
Norton died on September 18, 2013, at a care facility
in Las Vegas. He was 70 years old and had suffered a series of strokes in later
life. Across the boxing world tributes were paid, with George Foreman
calling him "the fairest of them all," and Larry Holmes
saying that he "will be incredibly missed in the boxing world and by
A tribute to Ken Norton