Ken Norton vs. Earnie Shavers

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Shavers batters Norton along the ropes
Shavers drops Norton for the second and final time

Ken Norton 225 lbs lost to Earnie Shavers 210 lbs by KO at 1:58 in round 1 of 12

  • Date: 1979-03-23
  • Location: Las Vegas Hilton, Las Vegas Hilton Pavilion, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
  • Referee: Mills Lane


From Sports Illustrated:

Norton's plan was not to go to war, at least not early. In winning 56 of 64 fights, Shavers had scored 54 knockouts. No one questioned his power, only his stamina. "He has a tendency to get tight, and when he gets tight, he gets wild," said Bill Slayton, Norton's trainer. "We have to either fight him at a distance or in very close. Kenny has to move in quick and meet him, and make him work inside. The closer Kenny is to a man, the better he is and the better I feel."

The strategy seemed sound. But early in the first round—with Shavers punching at an incredible pace—Norton improvised. First he elected to lie against the ropes and catch and counter. When that didn't work, he then decided to just cover up and let Shavers punch himself out. It was a fatal decision.

Shavers has always had a tendency to loop his punches. But with Norton standing dead still in front of him, Shavers began to punch with newfound discipline. He kept his punches short and tight, and whatever part of his upper anatomy Norton failed to protect with his curious peekaboo defense, Shavers blasted.

In the first minute, Shavers hooked Norton wickedly to the liver and then hooked him to the head, slamming the thunderous punch against the temple. Norton didn't go down, but he was hurt, and the fight was as good as over.

As Norton tried to escape, Shavers chased him, firing at full bore. The 30th punch, a hook, caught Norton flush on the head and he started to fall. The 31st, a right, nailed him as he fell. Rolling over, Norton got up at eight and staggered back against the ropes. He nearly fell again.

Referee Lane wiped off Norton's gloves and stepped back. Shavers stepped in. Once more Norton, like a man sleepwalking, tried to escape. No chance. Shavers hooked him to the head and then jolted him with a tremendous right uppercut that sent Norton tumbling down. The onetime WBC champion rolled over and crawled to the ropes. On instinct alone, he pulled himself up. Slayton leaped up the steps. Lane waved him away. Slayton signaled he wanted the fight ended. Nodding, Lane stopped it.

Common opponents

Norton stopped McMurray in seven rounds in 1969, and Shavers knocked out McMurray in one round in 1971.
Shavers was stopped in five rounds by Stander in 1970, and Norton stopped Stander in five rounds in 1976.
Norton knocked out Wallace in four rounds in 1970, and Shavers knocked out Wallace in one round in 1974.
Norton knocked out Clark in nine rounds in 1972. Shavers fought Clark twice in 1976, winning the first by a 10-round decision and winning the second by a 2nd-round TKO.
Shavers defeated Young in 1973 (BoxRec says by a 3rd-round TKO and Cyber Boxing Zone Encyclopedia says by a 1st-round KO) and fought a 10-round draw with Young in 1974. Norton beat Young by a 15-round split decision in 1977.
Shavers was stopped in one round by Quarry in 1973, and Norton stopped Quarry in five rounds in 1975.
Norton fought Ali twice in 1973, winning the first by a 12-round split decision and losing the second by a 12-round split decision. Norton fought Ali again in 1976 and lost by a 15-round unanimous decision. Shavers lost to Ali by a 15-round unanimous decision in 1977.
Shavers lost to Holmes by a 12-round unanimous decision in 1978 and by an 11th-round TKO in 1979. Norton lost to Holmes by a 15-round split decision in 1978.
Both fought Cobb in 1980. Shavers was stopped in eight rounds, and Norton beat Cobb by a 10-round split decision.