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Today in Sports History: 3/31 – Muhammad Ali Loses to Ken Norton

Today in sports history (1973), Ken Norton defeated Muhammad Ali in a split decision. Many inside and outside the sport believe that Ali is the greatest of all time. In fact, Ali finished his career with a 56-5 record, winning 37 of those fights by knockout.

Joe Frazier was probably Ali’s biggest rival. Louis defeated Ali once. Norton was also a big rival of Ali’s. Looking to prove himself as one of the best boxers in the sport, Norton gave Ali everything he could handle, even winning their fight against each other. This was important because, before the fight, Norton was unsure of his career. He had financial concerns and was thinking about leaving the sport altogether. By taking the fight against Ali, Norton produced one of the greatest boxing matches in world history.

Muhammad Ali Ken Norton
Credit: Jeff Robbins/AP Photo

Ken Norton Defeats Muhammad Ali in Ali-Norton 1

Close to nobody gave Norton a chance to defeat Ali. Muhammed Ali was on the back of revitalizing his career after losing to Frazier a couple of years prior. In Ali’s famous trash-talking skill, he called Norton an amateur and regarded this fight as something like a tune-up. The fight started and it could be instantly seen that Norton could give Ali trouble.

Norton had an unorthodox punching style. This looked like he was punching from below during fights. Norton would shoot up punches from his waist, rather than over the top or parallel with the ground. Ali was not as prepared as he should have been as he was used to guys throwing punches from their shoulders.

Norton defeated Ali and many thought that this was going to be it for Ali. He had won 10 straight fights in between the two years since his loss to Frazier. Ali and Norton would fight two more times, winning both. Those wins though could not trump what Norton did to Ali in the first fight. The most famous thing to come from this fight was that Norton had broke Ali’s jaw and won the fight.

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