Ken Norton Biography

Ken Norton, an African-American professional boxer, is widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time. Notably, he became only the second boxer to defeat the legendary Muhammad Ali. Throughout his career, Norton faced formidable opponents such as Jack O’Halloran, George Foreman, Randall Cobb, and Larry Holmes. He achieved the prestigious title of the ‘World Boxing Council’ heavyweight champion. Known for his unique cross-armed defensive stance, Norton was equally formidable on the offensive, delivering powerful punches, particularly his lethal left hook and overhand right. With an impressive record of 33 knockout wins, his skills and unmatched power were undeniable. Beyond boxing, Norton also ventured into acting, appearing in movies like ‘Mandingo’ and ‘Drum’, as well as making notable appearances on popular TV shows such as ‘The A-Team’, ‘Knight Rider’, and ‘Ryan’s Four’. Additionally, he penned his autobiography titled ‘Going the Distance’.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Kenneth Howard Norton Sr.
  • Died At Age: 70
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Rose Conant (m. ?–2013), Jeannette Norton (m. 1966–1968)
    • Father: John Norton
    • Mother: Ruth Norton
    • Children: Brandon Norton, Keith Norton, Ken Norton Jr., Kenejon Norton, Kenisha Norton
  • Born Country: United States
  • Boxers
  • Black Boxers
  • Height: 6’3″ (190 cm), 6’3″ Males
  • Died on: September 18, 2013
  • Place of death: Henderson, Nevada, United States
  • Cause of Death: Congestive Heart Failure
  • Notable Alumni: Jacksonville High School, Truman State University
  • Diseases & Disabilities: Strokes
  • U.S. State: Illinois, African-American From Illinois
  • More Facts
  • Education: Truman State University, Jacksonville High School

Childhood & Early Life

Kenneth Howard Norton was born in Jacksonville, Illinois, USA, on August 9, 1943. A naturally gifted athlete, he made it to the all-state football team, playing in a defensive position in 1960. He went to Jacksonville High School. The school’s track coach entered Norton in eight events in 1961. He went on to win six and earned second place in two. This started the ‘Ken Norton Rule’ in high school sports, limiting a student’s participation to four events. Ken went to the ‘Northeast Missouri State University’. He studied elementary education with the aim of becoming a teacher or policeman.


Ken Norton’s boxing career started when he joined the ‘United States Marine Corps’ (1963–1967). He also served as a manual Morse and other communications intercepting officer. He graduated from the ‘NCTC Corry Station’ Pensacola, Florida. While serving in the ‘Marine Corps’, Ken won three ‘All-Marine Heavyweight’ titles and compiled a 24–2 win-loss record. He switched to a professional boxing career in 1967. His first match was a victory against Grady Brazell on November 14, 1967. Ken Norton went on to win his first sixteen pro-boxing matches before suffering his first loss against Jose Luis Garcia through knockout on July 2, 1970. In 1971–1972, Norton registered straight victories against Steve Carter, James J. Woody, Charles Harris, Jack O’Halloran, and others. His first high profile match was against boxing legend Muhammad Ali at the ‘San Diego Sports Arena’. On March 31, 1973, he handed Ali, only the second loss in his career and even broke Ali’s jaw. He thus won the ‘NABF Heavyweight Title’ with a 30–1 score. On September 10, 1973, he fought Muhammad Ali again for the rematch. He lost the match and the ‘NABF Heavyweight Title’ in a controversial split decision. Ken Norton then fought George Foreman in 30 – 3 losing effort on March 26, 1974. He went on to win his next seven matches (1975–1976), against Jerry Quarry, Jose Luis Garcia, Pedro Lovell, Ron Stander, and others. Norton faced Muhammad Ali for the third and last time on September 28, 1976. He lost 37–4 again in a controversial decision. Although he won his next fight against Duane Bobick on May 11, 1977, his third loss to Ali broke his spirits. He was given the ‘WBC Heavyweight Title’ on March 18, 1978, after his match against Jimmy Young on November 5, 1977, was named a title match. Norton lost the ‘WBC Heavyweight Title’ to Larry Holmes on June 9, 1978. His last victory came against Randall Cobb on November 7, 1980. He lost his last match against Gerry Cooney on May 11, 1981, and retired. In his career he fought 50 professional fights, winning 42. He also starred in movies like ‘Mandingo’ (1975) and ‘Drum’ (1976). He also had small roles in movies like ‘Delta Pi’ (1984), ‘Kiss and Be Killed’ (1993), and ‘The Man Who Came Back’ (2008). His TV roles included series like ‘The A-Team’ (1983), ‘Knight Rider’ (1986), and TV movie ‘Oceans of Fire’ (1986), etc.

Awards & Achievements

Ken Norton was inducted into the ‘World Boxing Hall of Fame’ in 1989. He was also inducted into the ‘International Boxing Hall of Fame’ in 1992. In 2001, Norton was inducted into the ‘Breitbard Hall of Fame’. He was also inducted into the 2004 ‘United States Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame’. Similarly, he entered the ‘World Boxing Council Hall of Fame’ in 2008. He was also honored by being inducted into the ‘California Sports Hall of Fame’ in 2011.

Family & Personal Life

Ken Norton was married to Jeannette Henderson from 1966 until 1968. Their son Ken Norton Jr. was born on September 29, 1966. He was then married to Jacqueline Halton from August 5, 1977, until 2000. They had three children, sons Keith Norton and KeneJon and daughter Kenisha Eronda. Ken married Rose Conant on April 25, 2012. He remained married to her until his death. He died on September 18, 2013, after suffering a series of strokes.

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