On This Day: George Foreman Knocked Out Ken Norton
By Sina Latif
In 1974, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman fought in one of the biggest fights and sporting events in history, the famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in Kinshasa, Zaire (Democratic Republic of the Congo).
However, before that legendary fight, on this day, March 26, in 1974, Foreman faced heavyweight contender Ken Norton in Venezuela in the second defence of his heavyweight championship. This fight was billed as “The Caracas Caper” for the WBC, WBA and the Ring Magazine heavyweight championships.
Norton had outpointed Ali the previous year to score a huge upset, breaking Ali’s jaw in the process, before Ali gained revenge with a close decision victory of his own in the rematch seven months later.
This loss did not adversely affect Norton’s career. He had earned wide respect for his performances against a man considered one of the best heavyweights of all time. Next up, Foreman.
Ali failed the test, then had a resit and passed.
Foreman, on this day, breezed through his test with terrifying ease.
Heading into this bout, Foreman had scored a first or second round KO in his previous seven fights.
Foreman’s last fight prior to the Norton clash was a first round KO over Jose Roman after three knockdowns, and a ravaging of Joe Frazier, the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world and the first man to defeat Ali, after six knockdowns in two rounds the fight before the Roman bout.
‘Big George’ was an intimidating, physically overpowering heavyweight knocking grown men out for fun, with a record of 36 KO’s from 39 victories.
As Ali had stated moments prior to the Foreman vs Norton bout, agreements were already in place for Ali and Foreman to face off if Foreman was to prevail.
However, first Foreman had to get through a man built like an adonis with a 30-2 record, one of the losses being to Ali in a tightly contested fight. For a boxer built like a bodybuilder, Norton boxed with uncommon elasticity for a heavyweight. He had an unconventional cross-arm style defence and threw his jabs from down by his waist rather than from his shoulder, which is the norm. Norton’s unusual technique gave Ali trouble, but Foreman’s power was just too hot to handle.
Norton didn’t make it through two rounds as Foreman demolished him with a series of hayemakers.
Foreman looked set to be as dominant a heavyweight champion as anybody in history on the evening of this remorseless destruction of Norton. He looked unbeatable.
Norton was unfortunate to have boxed in the same era as so many great heavyweights. He often does not get the credit and recognition he deserves. He is best known as the fighter to have broken Ali’s jaw, or the man unfortunately best known for being knocked out in just two rounds by Foreman, depending on who you ask.
However, perhaps there was an inevitability to Foreman’s KO of Norton due to his reputation for demolition.
Fighters like a prime Foreman separated themselves from other boxers. Like Sonny Liston before him and Mike Tyson after him, Foreman had an aura of destruction.
Foreman was viewed as an anti-social wrecking machine. He was no “People’s champion”. He wasn’t loved. He was feared and respected.
Ringside commentator Ali predicted a Norton victory all night and between round one and two, Ali stated that Norton had to be a great fighter to have gone 24 rounds with “The Greatest”, and if Ali couldn’t destroy Norton, Foreman wouldn’t be able to either.
Ali may have made numerous correct predictions throughout his career, but on this occasion he was wrong. Ali produced a massive shock in Foreman’s next fight with that famous victory in Zaire, but Foreman went on to establish himself as one of the greatest heavyweights of all time.
Norton was indeed a great fighter, Ali was right about that. Little did they all know just how great Foreman would become.