Hall of Fame Professional Boxer. He was the former WBC Heavyweight Champion (1978). He will be best remembered for a trilogy of bouts with Muhammad Ali (two in 1973 one in 1976). In the initial contest, Norton was victorious with a 12-round split decision which saw the legendary champion Ali suffer a broken jaw. The following two rematches resulted with Ali emerging as a winner. A gifted and versatile athlete during his years at Jacksonville High School in Illinois, he excelled in track, basketball and football. He earned a football scholarship to attend Northeast Missouri State and while there, he was a member of their football squad for which captured a state championship in 1960. It would be during his service with the United States Marine Corps, when he took an interest in boxing. He went onto compile an impressive amateur record and in 1967, he turned professional. He put together a win streak of 16 before suffering his first defeat to Venezuelan boxer Jose Luis Garcia in 1970. He proceeded to win the next 13 fights for which set up his first encounter with Ali for the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) Crown. He was obliterated by the powerful George Foreman in a match for the WBC and WBA Heavyweight Titles. During the contest, Norton fell to the canvas three-times and did not survive the 2nd-round. The following year, he had better fortunes as he reclaimed the NABF Title with a win over the crafty veteran Jerry Quarry and he avenged his first career loss with a knockout victory over Jose Luis Garcia. On November 5th, 1977, he won a 15-round decision over Jimmy Young in a WBC elimination bout to earn the chance to face the champion Leon Spinks. However, Spinks refused to defend his title and was stripped of the belt for which was then awarded to Norton. He was named the Boxer of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America in 1977 but would relinquish the title to Larry Holmes in a defense loss the following June (1978). Norton retired from boxing in 1981 after accumulating a 42 win (33 knockout), 7 loss and 1 drawn record. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992. His fame as a boxer led to an abbreviated career as an actor and he would appear in the films "Mandingo" (1975), "Drum" (1976), as well as the TV programs "The A-Team" and "Knight Rider." His son Ken Norton, Jr. was a former longtime linebacker in the National Football League with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers. He died of complications from a stroke he suffered a year earlier.
Bio by: C.S.