BORN on August 9 1943 in Jacksonville, Illinois, ‘The Black Hercules’, Ken Norton, would go on to become the WBC heavyweight champion. Norton would compete in one of the most competitive and classic eras of heavyweight boxing, fighting the likes of Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, Jerry Quarry and George Foreman.

  • NORTON was an outstanding athlete in High School. His track coach entered him in eight events, and Norton placed first in seven of them. As a result, the “Ken Norton Rule,” which limits participation of an athlete to a maximum of four track and field events, was instituted in Illinois High School sports.
  • IN 1963 Norton joined the United States Marine Corps. Here he discovered boxing, and like most other sports he tried his hand at, he excelled compiling a 24–2 record. Norton went on to win three All-Marine Heavyweight titles. He left the Marine Corps in 1967 to become a professional boxer.
  • NORTON won his first 16 bouts in relative obscurity, but after being featured as a prospect in Ring Magazine, he was handed a shock knockout defeat to Jose Luis Garcia, which would be the pinnacle of Garcia’s career.
  • KEN was handed his big break in 1973 when Muhammad Ali, looking for a way back to the top after his defeat to Joe Frazier, selected Norton as an opponent. Stepping into the ring under relative obscurity, Norton promptly made a name for himself by breaking Ali’s jaw and winning a 12-round split decision.
  • NORTON would end up fighting Ali three times, but he lost the latter two bouts. The third fight was at Yankee Stadium in 1976, in front of 30,000 fans. Ali won via unanimous decision, but Norton was convinced he had won the fight, as were many observers, and claimed he never got over that defeat.
  • PRIOR to the third fight with Ali, Norton had also fought for the title against George Foreman in El Poliedro, Venezuela suffering a second round stoppage defeat.
  • IN 1977 Norton finally became WBC heavyweight champion, after Leon Spinks refused to fight Norton instead re-matching Ali, whom Spinks had just beaten to claim the WBA and WBC titles. The WBC stripped Spinks off the title and handed it to Norton.
  • THE reign was short lived, though. In his first defence against Larry Holmes, Norton lost the title via split decision, ending his only spell as champ.
  • NORTON’S son Ken Norton Jnr, had a very successful NFL career, representing the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers between 1988 and 2000, winning three super bowl championships as a player and one as a coach in 2014 with the Seattle Seahawks.
  • NORTON died at a care facility in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 18, 2013. He was 70 years old and had suffered a series of strokes in later life. The boxing world paid tributes, with George Foreman calling him “the fairest of them all”.
Ken Norton