50 Years Ago Today: George Foreman KO Ken Norton: “My Punch Was Really Zinging!”

By James Slater - 03/26/2024 - Comments

Heavyweight king “Big” George Foreman really was a frightening figure back in the 1970s, never more so than on this day 50 years ago. Foreman, approaching his peak at age 25, with a perfect 39-0(36) record upon entering the ring to make the second defence of the world title, proceeded to annihilate a very good fighter in Ken Norton.

Foreman, who had blasted Joe Frazier inside two astonishing rounds to rip the title the previous January, had then wiped out a mismatched Joe “King” Roman, winning inside one brutal round. Now, against 30 year old Norton, Foreman was taking his first real test as champion. Norton, 30-2(23) coming in and fresh off his two closer than close battles with former champion Muhammad Ali – with Norton busting Ali’s jaw in the first fight, with Norton winning the decision – had Ali’s backing going into the Foreman fight.

Ali, doing commentary at ringside along with Bob Sheridan, stated on air in Caracas, Venezuela how Norton had too much experience for Foreman, that Norton “had been to college, he’s got a degree from the Muhammad Ali school!” But for once Ali was wrong, and Foreman was deadly accurate and wickedly powerful with his punches. Looking back years later, Foreman said he was surprised himself that he did get an easy and quick knockout, but Foreman pointed out how “my punch was really zinging at that point.”

That it was.

Foreman, cutting the ring off efficiently, boxed a fairly close, not too eventful opening round with Norton, and Ali declared after the round was over that his prediction of a Norton win would come true. But then, in round two, the Texan monster devoured its prey. Foreman, looking for an opening, found one and he cracked Norton with a right hook, the bomb followed by five more rights to the head. Norton was held up only by the ropes and he was given a count.

Foreman, hovering in a neutral corner, the baleful stare on his face chilling to see, then tore into Norton with both hands. Norton, nervously fiddling with the waistband of his short, perhaps well aware of the fate he would not be able to avoid, was hit with some absolute haymakers. A Foreman right to the body hurt Norton, and then another big one to the head sent the challenger reeling into the ropes once again. As Norton bounced up off the ropes, Foreman belted him with an illegal shot to the side of the face.

The fight as good as over, Foreman closed the show courtesy of some vicious left hand missiles that exploded off Norton’s jaw, with Foreman’s right uppercut also doing major damage, and with one more gargantuan left chucked in for good measure. Norton crashed to the mat, his arms outstretched. Bravely trying to get back up but half collapsing into the ropes as he did so, Norton was pulled out by his corner, this as a menacing Foreman stood just inches away from him, the champion seemingly happy to unleash more hell should he be permitted to do so.

It was a magnificent display of raw, pinpoint accurate punching from the young champion, and Foreman seemed set to rule the division for many years to come. Ali, whether or not he was shocked by what he had just seen Foreman do to the same Norton who had pushed him to the wire two times, went into verbal overdrive when asked how he could possibly beat Foreman.

Ali would of course meet Foreman later that year, the fight scheduled for September, but actually taking place in October. But for now, Ali’s African miracle would have to wait. George Foreman was the heavyweight king and nobody was going to take his crown. Or so we thought.

“Once I got him hurt I didn’t let him come out of it,” Foreman said in the ring after the win over Norton. “I’ve been punching hard and I won, and I’m proud, okay?

Foreman’s thunderous punches were more than okay, they were lethal. Looking back at Foreman’s combination of power, accuracy, and speed of hand, the destruction job he did on Norton may well have been the peak performance from “Big George.”

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