If ever a heavyweight champion looked set for a long reign it was 25 year old George Foreman on the evening of his brutal destruction of Ken Norton. Foreman, who was making the second defence of the crown, having ripped it from Joe Frazier the year before, looked all but unbeatable against the experienced Norton; the man who was most famous for having broken the jaw of Muhammad Ali the same year Foreman had destroyed “Smokin’” Joe.
Foreman Vs. Norton was set for March 26th in Caracas, Venezuela, with the rapidly emerging Don King acquiring the cash to get the fight on. King had also, unknown to almost everyone, set the wheels in motion for Foreman, who he was sure would beat Norton, to defend his title against Ali next. But first Foreman, 39-0(36) would have to take care of the impressively built ex-Marine who sported a 30-2 ledger.
In the opening session, a retreating Norton found out quickly how adept Foreman was at cutting off the ring, making him use his legs and expend energy. Norton was unhurt in the first-round, though, inspiring co-commentator Ali to give Norton the round and tell the world that “ain’t no George Foreman gonna knock out Kenny Norton, because I couldn’t do it.” Throughout the short fight, Ali bellowed ringside instructions to Norton, “box him, Kenny, box him,” Ali shouted.
Norton tried to box but Foreman was all over him, fast, powerful and all-devouring. The second-round saw perhaps the most impressive and exquisitely violent punching combinations ever launched from heavyweight legend Foreman. Norton was blasted into the ropes, for which he was given a count, and then felled twice. Getting back up on sheer instinct after the second knockdown, Norton, his eyes “rolled up,” as referee Jimmy Rondeau put it, was all done. With a remorseless Foreman hovering, the short but memorable fight was over.
Could anyone possibly have a hope of beating Foreman? Ali, jumping up in ultra-animated fashion, insisted to Bob Sheridan and the watching world that yes, he was the man for the job.
“He hit Ken Norton just like he did all the rest, caught him early,” Ali said. “But if a man can box and stay out of range for five rounds and tire him out, he’ll retire George Foreman. This man depends on getting his man in the first one or two rounds, if he don’t do that he’s frustrated.”
How, Sheridan asked, could Norton go 24 rounds with Ali and yet last only two rounds with the heavyweight champion of the world?
“Because,” Ali shot back, “He’s not a scientific fighter like me but I admit, he’s stronger and he hits harder. Many men I fought, Floyd Patterson, George Chuvalo, Zora Foley, who were stronger than me, many I couldn’t knock out, Sonny Liston, but I tell you this, boxing ability, whupping him on points, for the distance if necessary, then I’ll whup him.”
Ali signed off by comically telling Sheridan that if he “came over (to Zaire) talking like that, we’ll cook ya!”
It was a great interview, one that followed a great ring performance from Foreman. And the rest, as we know is history. But Ali aside, could ANY heavyweight you care to mention, be it from yesteryear or from today, have beaten the 1974, 224 pound version of “Big George?”