On This Day: Ken Norton Bursts Duane Bobick’s Bubble Courtesy Of A First Round KO

By James Slater - 05/11/2023 - Comments

Talk about a heavily hyped fighter being utterly and ruthlessly exposed. On this day in 1977, 26-year-old “Great White Hope” Duane Bobick, trained by the great Eddie Futch, put his glossy 38-0(32) pro record on the line against the fear greater experienced (and just far greater fighter, period) Ken Norton.

The two heavyweights met in New York, at Madison Square Garden, and prior to the fight it was announced how a contract was in place for the winner to fight reigning heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali. Norton, 32 years of age and sporting a 37-4(31) record, was coming off a close, controversial and much talked about decision loss to Ali, the September 1976 fight seeing Ali hold onto his crown due to the aid of the three judges.

Norton, who held a win over Ali and had also been in with top men such as George Foreman (a loss) and Jerry Quarry (a win) proved to be light years ahead of Bobick in every department. Bobick, hailing from Minnesota, had a fine amateur career, in which he defeated two genuine greats in Teofilo Stevenson and Larry Holmes. Yet as a pro, Bobick was nowhere near as special.

That said, prior to the Norton fight/blowout, Bobick had pricked up good wins over Manuel Ramos, Mike Weaver, Scott LeDoux, Bunny Johnson and Chuck Wepner. But against the former Marine from San Diego, Bobick was utterly out of his depth, and it showed. In just :58 seconds.

Throughout his career, Norton was a fighter who could be caught and taken out quickly by a big puncher. On this night, it was Kenny who was the big puncher doing the taking out. Both men came out aggressively, but it was Norton who landed first. A big overhand right hurt Bobick, his legs wobbling, Norton going for the finish already. Bobick tried to fight back but Norton blasted him again, and again, and again. More rights crashed into Bobick’s head, before a pulverising right hand flush on the jaw sent Bobick down hard. Bobick tried to beat the count, but he briefly fell on his face, before he was counted out in the act of rising. There was confusion as the referee initially allowed the fight to continue, before he realised his mistake and dived in to call a halt to the proceedings, this before Norton had had time to throw another punch. This was of course good news for the badly dazed Bobick.

Norton was back, his savage KO win serving to rid him, at least in part, of the bad taste his debatable loss to Ali had left him with. But there was no rematch with Ali for Norton, no fourth fight. Instead, Norton was declared WBC heavyweight champion after his points win over Jimmy Young later that year. Norton then played his part in a heavyweight classic in the form of his losing battle with Holmes.

As for Bobick, he fought on for two more years after the Norton hammering, with him winning ten and losing 3. Following back-to-back KO losses at the hands of John Tate and George Chaplin, Bobick retired, his final record reading 48-4(42).

The sport of boxing is all about levels, and on this day back in 1977, two heavyweights who were on completely different levels met in what turned out to be a brief and painful fight.

YouTube video