Kenneth Howard Norton fought during the 1970s era of superlative heavyweights, a group that included George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Leon Spinks, and the greatest himself—Muhammad Ali. And it was a trilogy of fights against Ali that Mr. Norton—who was also knows as the “Black Hercules”—is perhaps best remembered for.
Mr. Norton broke Muhammad Ali’s jaw in the first fight, winning on a split decision. Following the fight, and typical of the man, he visited Ali in the hospital, concerned only about his opponent’s injury and never mentioned his own triumphant performance.
The tributes to Mr. Norton have been fulsome and personal. His former manager Patrick Tenore told the AP, “Ken Norton never blamed anyone for anything. He was a warm and generous man. He was a champion and a fighter. He was bright-eyed and everyone will miss him.”
Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson offered his own eulogy on Twitter: “Today a great man passed away. A legend in the boxing world and a good man.”
Mr. Norton was also an essentially humble man. Despite his glittering boxing career and his appearance in more than 20 movies, it wasn’t fighting that brought him the greatest pleasure in life; it was fatherhood. In his autobiography Believe: Journey from Jacksonville, Norton wrote, “Of all the titles that I’ve been privileged to have, the title of ‘dad’ has always been the best.”
Ken Norton passed away Wednesday at the age of 70.