Boxing, as Sugar Ray Leonard would say, is the ultimate challenge. Nothing compares to testing oneself the way one does by stepping into the ring, each time. Nothing allows such a blood and sweat mix of revenge and return either. The passing of Ken Norton, the man who broke Muhammad Ali's jaw in their very first bout in 1973, at 70 is the loss of one of the most unorthodox icons of the sport—a man Ali had never wanted to fight again.
Norton went on to become the World Boxing Council heavyweight champion, and counted Duane Bobick and Jimmy Young among his conquests, although the 1978 WBC crown was given to him by default when Leon Spinks, who had beaten Ali, refused to fight Norton and asked for a rematch with Ali. Having started boxing in the US Marines, Norton turned professional in 1967 and won 16 straight bouts till Jose Luis Garcia knocked him out in 1970—a loss he avenged five years later with a fifth-round knock-out.
Norton's career is a perfect testament to the ephemera that sporting glory, and boxing glory in particular, is. After his 1973 triumph over Ali, he lost to George Foreman the next year in both the WBC and World Boxing Association championships. And he did not win his two other bouts with Ali—losing the second to a narrow split verdict and the last to a unanimous decision booed by the crowd at the Yankee Stadium. But his place in history was sealed by the unorthodox jab-up at Ali from below in their first fight, which made the underdog not only floor the self-proclaimed astronaut of boxing but also become a hero for all times.