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 against all odds, breaking Ali’s jaw in the process, before Ali gained revenge in the rematch via a tough split decision victory seven months later.
Nevertheless, Norton’s reputation had been embellished after he had more than held his own against a man perceived as one of the best heavyweights of all time. Next up, Foreman.
Heading into this bout, Foreman had scored a first or second round knockout in his previous seven fights.
Foreman’s last two fights prior to the Norton clash were 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, and a first round KO over Jose Roman after three knockdowns.
In 1974, Foreman was a wrecking ball destroying all in front of him. Whether knock-over’s or undefeated undisputed champions, Foreman was pummelling grown men 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. Norton had an unconventional cross-arm style defence and threw his jabs from down by his waist rather than from his shoulder. 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.
Foreman looked set to be as dominant a heavyweight champion as anybody in history on the evening of this remorseless destruction of Norton.
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. However, with the privilege of retrospect, this demolition should not have been much of a surprise.
Early 70’s Foreman was a vicious heavyweight. He was no “People’s champion”. He was a wrecking ball. He was feared and demanded respect. The strength and the power was overwhelming his opponents. His two round demolition of Frazier was the most one-sided beating ever dished out on an undefeated heavyweight champion.
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 with one of the most incredible comebacks in boxing history two decades later.
Norton was indeed a great fighter, Ali was right about that. Little did they all know just how great Foreman would become.
Sina of SimBoxx