Former heavyweight champion Ken Norton, who beat Muhammad Ali and then lost a controversial decision to him in Yankee Stadium, died Wednesday at a local care facility in Arizona. He was 70 and had been in poor health for the last several years after suffering a series of strokes.
Gene Kilroy, who was Ali’s former business manager, says he’s sure Norton is “in heaven now with all the great fighters,” and Kilroy would like to hear that conversation.
Norton broke Ali’s jaw in their first fight, beating him by split decision in 1973 in a non-title fight in San Diego. They fought six months later, and Ali narrowly 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 appeared in the notorious 1975 film “Mandingo.”
He most recently appeared onscreen in the 2008 film “The Man Who Came Back.”
Screenwriter Kristin Ver Linden, niece of the former champ, released the following statement to Variety:
“My Uncle Ken Norton has passed away. With his passing, the world has suffered a great loss. not only because he was a superstar athlete, father grandfather brother, uncle husband and so on, but because he was a wonderful person with a great heart and a great soul. He was also the one I watched that taught me hard work and determination pays off. I will proudly carry this legacy with me always and he will forever live on in my heart and the hearts of all who knew and loved him. Rest in peace Uncle Kenny…”