Catching Up With Heavyweight Legend Ken Norton

by James Slater: One of the great things about Las Vegas is the fact there is always a very real possibility you will run into a celebrity of some kind - from the boxing world if I'm very lucky. Well, yesterday, as Fight Town was calming down after the huge Cinco De Mayo weekend that was topped by the great Mayweather-Cotto fight, I ran into heavyweight legend and Hall of Famer Ken Norton.

Norton was doing a signing session at a sports memorabilia store on the strip, and I had the opportunity to sit and have a quick chat with the man who was world heavyweight king in 1978. Kenny, now in his mid-60s, has trouble getting around these days (he gets around mostly with the aid of a powered buggy - his condition the result of a near-fatal car smash in 1986), yet he has his marbles, is upbeat and cheerful and has retained his sense of humour (my buddy was given the Ken Norton staredown treatment, until both guys burst into laughter!).

Sporting a neat grey goatie beard and a fair amount of bling, Norton spoke almost in a whisper yesterday. Still looking formidable physically (Ken's hands, the weapons that once busted the great Muhammad Ali's jaw, are like shovels) Ken looks in fine shape actually; his biceps bulging and his chest also. Speaking briefly about his legenday career - one that saw him battle, amongst others, Ali, Larry Holmes, George Foreman, Gerry Cooney, Earnie Shavers and Jimmy Young - Norton is most proud of his memorable, never-to-be-forgotten wars with The Greatest.

Upon speaking about the third fight, that contested the world crown in the summer of 1976, cheers broke out in the store. Also, some more passionate fans hollered how Norton was blatantly robbed by the three judges in the fight at Yankee Stadium. All these years later, and that 15 round UD still inspires anger.

Norton won his share of big fights, of course, but his second most famous ring rival, Larry Holmes, also beat him via close decision. Norton has nothing but fond memories of his awesome battle with Holmes, however. Kenny beamed when I mentioned his being enshrined in The Hall of Fame; another important moment in this great fighter's life and career.

It was a joy to meet Norton yesterday, even if his powers of speech are not what they once were, making his conversational skills limited these days. A true gentleman in every sense of the word, Kenny really did make my day - me and a ton of other fans, I'm sure.

Article posted on 08.05.2012

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