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Former boxing champ Ken Norton dies

3 years 4 months 4 hours ago September 19, 2013 Sep 19, 2013 Thursday, September 19 2013 September 19, 2013 9:48 AM in Sports
Source: Associated Press

LAS VEGAS - Former heavyweight champion Ken Norton, who beat Muhammad Ali and later lost a controversial decision to him in Yankee Stadium, died Wednesday at a local care facility, his son said. He was 70.

Ken Norton Jr., a coach with the Seattle Seahawks, confirmed the death to The Associated Press before handing the phone to his wife, too distraught to talk.

Norton had been in poor health for the last several years after suffering a series of strokes, a friend of the fighter said.

"He's been fighting the battle for two years," said Gene Kilroy, Ali's former business manager. "I'm sure he's in heaven now with all the great fighters. I'd like to hear that conversation."

Norton broke Ali's jaw in their first bout, beating him by split decision in 1973 in a non-title fight in San Diego. They fought six months later, and Ali won a split decision.

They met for a third time on Sept. 28, 1976, at Yankee Stadium and Ali narrowly won to keep his heavyweight title.

Norton would come back the next year to win a heavyweight title eliminator and was declared champion by the World Boxing Council. But on June 9, 1978, he lost a bruising 15-round fight to Larry Holmes in what many regard as one of boxing's epic heavyweight bouts and would never be champion again.

Norton finished with a record of 42-7-1 and 33 knockouts. He would later embark on an acting career, appearing in several movies, and was a commentator at fights.

Norton was badly injured in a near fatal car accident in 1986. He recovered but never regained his full physical mobility.

"The doctors said I would never walk or talk," Norton said at an autograph session in 2011 in Las Vegas, lifting his trademark fedora to show long surgical scars on his bald head.

Kilroy said Norton was visited at the veteran's hospital in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson by former fighters, including Mike Tyson, Earnie Shavers and Thomas Hearns.

IMAGE: Wikipedia

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