THIS DAY IN SPORTS: ‘Big George’ jumps all over Norton

Presented by POOL SCOUTS.

This Day In Sports…March 26, 1974, 50 years ago today:

George Foreman successfully defends his world heavyweight title with a second-round knockout of Ken Norton in Caracas, Venezuela. Norton was coming off two solid bouts against Muhammad Ali the previous year, winning one and losing one—both by split decision. But Norton, a future Hall of Famer, was pegged as a 3-to-1 underdog versus Foreman. Oddsmakers were validated quickly. After an even first round, Foreman staggered Norton with a series of blows in the second, knocking him down three times. Norton tried to continue, but the referee stopped the fight, giving Foreman a professional record of 40-0.  

Caracas was noteworthy in its own right. The Venezuelan government landed the bout by waiving all taxes for Foreman and Norton. But a day after the fight, the deal was revoked, and Venzuela refused to allow either boxer to leave the country until he paid his taxes on the purse. At 18 percent, that would be $700,000 out of Foreman’s pocket and $200,000 out of Norton’s. The ordeal last three days for Norton, who settled for $47,000 in taxes and a $60,000 bond. Foreman was stuck in Caracas for five days before putting up an undisclosed amount.

Foreman hadn’t been inside the ropes often, so he was fresh for the Norton fight. In fact, he had fought just twice in the previous 14 months. And in clock time, he was in the ring for less than nine minutes combined. Foreman recorded a technical knockout over Joe Frazier in January, 1973, sending him to the canvas six times in less than two rounds to claim the WBC and WBA heavyweight championship. Foreman’s first title defense was in September, 1974, when he dispatched Jose Roman in Tokyo in a first-round knockout.

Foreman would lose his crown to Muhammad Ali seven months later in the “Rumble In The Jungle” at Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Ali was a 4-to-1 underdog against Foreman, but he fed off the crowd of 60,000 (and the karma of one of the most-watched television events of all time). It was the fight that made Ali’s “rope-a-dope” famous, and he regained the title that had been stripped from him in 1967.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)


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