Ali Vs Norton-Mar 30th, 1973  S.Diego
This was the first fight between these two fighters in what would turn out to be a fantastic trilogy. Ken Norton was a relative unknown, staying exclusively on the west coast he wasn't really well regarded. Most people including Howard Cosell, who called the fight, thought it was a complete mismatch and that Ali should win easily. Ken Norton had a career record of 29-1 going into the fight with 23 knockouts. Norton's best wins were against Henry Clark and Jack O'Halloran fringe contenders and his only loss was to top ten contender Jose Luis Garcia. Norton was a real underdog in this fight and taking a HUGE step up in class. Muhammad Ali wanted to get back in to the world title picture and was fighting a lot to do it. This fight was for the NABF Title, but that was secondary. Ali had just come wins against Bob Foster and Joe Bugner. He had a career record of 41-1 and was a already a legend. Let's see this fight materialize.

Here's the fight as I saw it.-Green are the round scores as I scored it, red is important text like a cut, great punch or knockdown.

Round 1- Both fighters waiting on each other and feeling each other out. Both fighters are popping the jab and Ali is moving a little. Norton traps Ali against the ropes and slugs away to his mid-section. Ali lands a nice right and is a little more effective. Ali's Round- 10-9

Round 2- Norton lands a nice left hook and a couple more punches. Norton is landing well to the body. Ken fires a little combination and Ali fires back. Norton doing real well this round and lands a nice right as the bell sounds. Norton's Round- 10-9  (19-19) even

Round 3- Ali lands a jab and gets on his bicycle for the first time. He is landing the jab as he moves. Norton lands a decent body shot, but Ali is controlling the ring here. Ali is jabbing real well.
Ali's Round- 10-9  (29-28) Ali

Round 4- Ali moving again, using the whole ring. Norton lands a nice right and pins Ali in the corner. Norton showing a good jab and lands another right. Ali isn't doing much this round and lands his only meaningful punch in the last 10 seconds of the round. Norton's Round- 10-9  (38-38) even

Round 5- Both fighters exchanging jabs, and very suprisingly Ken is getting the better of it. Ali lands a right hand but is still being stuck by the good Norton jab. Norton's Round- 10-9  (48-47) Norton

Round 6- Norton lands a big right, the best punch of the fight. Another nice right from Norton, Ali is trying to get started this round but is being outworked. Norton pressing forward and out jabbing Ali.
Norton's Round- 10-9  (58-56) Norton

Round 7- Norton lands a nice right to the body in this slow paced round. Ali strikes back with a couple little rights. Norton still going to the body and is being countered by Ali.
Even Round- 10-10  (68-66) Norton

Round 8- Norton lands to Ali's jaw. Ali moving a little and doing better, Norton is not punching much. Ali is moving around a lot this round and doing a little more punching and landing.
Ali's Round- 10-9  (77-76) Norton

Round 9- Exchanging jabs in the middle of the ring. Norton is firing to the body and lands a nice head shot. Ali lands a nice right of his own and Norton covers. Norton lands a partial right and the partisan Norton crowd roars. Norton has a nice combination sequence to end the round.
Norton's Round- 10-9  (87-85) Norton

Round 10- Nice jabs from Norton, Ali moves and gets caught against the ropes. Norton landing shots as Ali moves backwards. Crowd is going crazy as Norton wings punches, Ali is being outworked here again.
Norton's Round- 10-9  (97-94) Norton

Round 11- Ali on his toes looking to score, still missing a lot. Fight speeds up and Ali is doing better this round. Norton misses a right and Ali counters well, Ali is much more busy this round.
Ali's Round- 10-9  (106-104) Norton

Round 12- Ali on his bicycle again, Norton is jabbing and misses a big right. Norton landing more again and is the aggressor. Norton is landing good body shots and a right that stuns Ali. Good finish from Norton to take the round well. Norton's Round- 10-9  (116-113) Norton is my decision.

Official Decision in rounds- 5-4 Norton
                                         6-5 Ali
                                         7-5 Norton winner by split decision Ken Norton
Norton-S Dec 12

This was a monumental upset. The only person that wasn't shocked at ringside was Joe Frazier who said that Norton's style would give Ali problems after sparring with him for 5 years. Norton's trainer was Eddie Futch, who came up with the strategy to jab when Ali jabbed to throw off his timing. It worked well and Ken Norton became a big time member to the heavyweight picture. Norton would rematch Ali in his next fight and get a title shot soon after. Ali was upset and came back to the rematch in better condition for an opponent he had a lot of respect for now. This was the beginning to a beautiful rivalry that made 70's boxing what it was.