Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest pugilists, enlightened the combat world with greatness throughout his career. Be it for his numerous wins or some of the upsetting losses, Ali always left an impact and something to look back at, through his fights.
The heavyweight veteran had two sensational trilogies in his career and both began with him being on the losing side. Although his rivalry with Joe Frazier is much renowned, Ali’s intense feud with Ken Norton was equally special.
Norton, an ex-mariner, outpointed Muhammad Ali via decision and broke his jaw in their first collision in 1973. While Ali’s unmatched legacy has boasted several big wins, it has a sprinkling of crushing defeats. That said, the losses also brought the best out of him and have cemented some of the greatest rivalries in the sport.
Ali’s defeat against Norton was a huge upset that called for an immediate rematch. However, the boxing world could never forget the night when Norton schooled ‘The Greatest’ and hammered his jaw.
Following the maiden defeat of his pro career against Joe Frazier, Ali was on a 10-fight win streak with a record of 41 wins and 1 loss at that time. He was hunting for his next adversary when Joe Frazier’s sparring partner Ken Norton entered the tale.
Having secured a 9th round TKO over Henry Clark, Norton bagged the fight against Ali. It was a cosmic event at the Sports Arena in San Diego, that turned out to be a shocker. The fight began with both the boxers at their best, but Norton emerged aggressively.
He poleaxed Muhammad Ali throughout the fight and the world could see ‘The Greatest’ in deep waters. Meanwhile, a thunderous shot from Norton broke Ali’s jaw in the second round. But, Ali still passed an inspirational message by not quitting and kept the show running till the final bell. He had his minor moments in the fight, but they weren’t enough to bag the win.
Ken Norton successfully became the second man to beat Muhammad Ali and landed one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight boxing. After the fight, Ali and Norton faced each other just a month later again. Muhammad Ali avenged the loss by vanquishing Norton in the second encounter. Three years later, the two met again inside the ring in 1976 where Ali beat Norton to close off the rivalry.
The Ali v Norton rivalry was an entertaining phase for all the fight fans. It continues to allure the combat community with the impact left by its outcome.
Do you think it was one of the greatest rivalries in heavyweight boxing history?