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One of the very best heavyweight boxers of all-time, Ken Norton passed away tonight.  He may have been overshadowed by the likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman during his career, but he was no less a boxer than any of those three.

Ken Norton, the former heavyweight champion who broke the jaw of Muhammad Ali on his way to a major upset in 1973, died Wednesday, his son said. He was 70.

Norton died in Arizona, where he had been living since suffering a stroke last year. He had been in failing health for a several years.

Norton had overcome two earlier strokes, prostate cancer, a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery, and survived a bad car accident in 1986 in which he broke his jaw, ribs and legs, fractured his skull and suffered a brain injury.

RIP Ken Norton.

For more about that golden era of professional boxing, see this diary that I wrote last year about Muhammad Ali and his rivalry with Joe Frazier - He Was, and Will Always Be, "The Greatest."

Here's a video posted this evening on YouTube.  It summarizes Norton's boxing career, including his three fights with Muhammad Ali.

Update:

Here's an ESPN report from this evening. (video)

Former Boxing Champion Ken Norton Sr. Dies
Nigel Collins remembers former heavyweight champion Ken Norton Sr.

Norton started boxing when he was in the Marines, and began his pro career after his release from duty in 1967. He lost only once in his early fights but had fought few fighters of any note when he was selected to meet Ali. At the time, Ali was campaigning to try to win back the heavyweight crown he lost to Joe Frazier in 1973.

Few gave Norton, who possessed a muscular, sculpted body, much of a chance against Ali in the fight, held at the Sports Arena in San Diego, where Norton lived. But his awkward style and close-in pressing tactics confused his opponent, and Norton broke Ali's jaw on the way to the decision that put him in the top echelon of heavyweight fighters.

"Ali thought it would be an easy fight," Kilroy said. "But Norton was unorthodox. Instead of jabbing from above like most fighters he would put his hand down and jab up at Ali."

Kilroy said after the fight Norton visited Ali at the hospital where he was getting his broken jaw wired. Ali, he said, told him he was a great fighter and he never wanted to fight him again.

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