The greatest always had a flair for the dramatic, especially in rematches. And 46 years ago, Muhammad Ali got revenge against the second fighter to ever beat him, Ken Norton.
Ali had lost in March of 1973 by split decision to his fellow contender Norton in San Diego, California. Early on in the fight Ali suffered a broken jaw from the big right hand of the hard-punching Norton. And, for several weeks after that fight had publicly hinted that he may in retire rather than fight on.
However, the competitor within the former Heavyweight Champion, and the fact that new L.A. Lakers owner, Jerry Buss, was offering a massive payday, landed the rematch at “The Fabulous Forum” in Inglewood, California, on September 10th of that same year.
Ali set the tone early with lightning fast hands and feet looking like a different fighter than in San Diego. Norton, who would become famous throughout the rest of his career for his straight ahead plodding style was an easy target for a lot of the fight.
Still, Norton hung in, and began to pressure Ali late in the battle scoring with right hands and left hooks that backed Ali up.
In the 12th and final round Norton clearly shook Ali with a big left hook that excited the Hall of Fame voice of Lakers announcer, Chick Hearn, on the TV broadcast, but “The Greatest” responded with some big punches of his own.
In the end, Ali got the nod from one ringside judge and the scoring referee, Dick Young, also declared him the winner for a split decision victory.
As was common back in the seventies, fighters were much more active, at times, fighting 6 or 7 times in a year. And, Ali fought the next month against someone named Rudy Lubbers in Jakarta, Africa and was victorious. He then fought in January of 1974 in a non-title rematch, again.
This one with “Smokin’ Joe” Frazier over 12 rounds at the scene of their first fight, Madison Square Garden. And, Ali avenged that loss, too.
That set the stage for arguably the greatest fight of Ali’s career, as his upset heavily-favored bruising unbeaten World Champion, George Foreman, by 8th Round knockout in October, 1974, in Zaire Africa.
Ali went on to beat Frazier and Norton for a second time, each in 1975 and 1976.
However, he lost the title, again, this time to former 1976 Olympic Champ Leon Spinks in February of 1978. But, as we have established, Ali was always seemingly greater in the rematch. And, he defeated Spinks by 15 round decision at the Superdome in New Orleans later that year. And, that made history becoming the first man to regain the Heavyweight Championship twice in his career.