Ken Norton vs. Larry Holmes

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Onsite poster

Larry Holmes 209 lbs beat Ken Norton 220 lbs by SD in round 15 of 15


Holmes hits Norton with a right
Norton lands a left against Holmes
  • Norton, who was at the end of his prime during this bout, was a 6 to 5 favorite.
  • Norton's purse was $2.3 million and Holmes' was $300,000.
  • There was a sellout crowd of 5,600 at the Caesars Palace Sports Pavilion.
  • The fight was televised by ABC in prime time.
  • When Norton defeated Jimmy Young in a 15-round WBC title eliminator in November 1977, he became the mandatory challenger for the winner of the February 1978 fight between World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks, which Spinks won in a huge upset. When Spinks decided to give Ali an immediate rematch, the WBC stripped him of the title and awarded it to Norton. When Norton lost the title to Holmes in his first defense, he became the only heavyweight champion in history never to win a world title fight.
  • After winning the title, Holmes said he injured his left arm five days before the fight when sparring partner Luis Rodriguez hit him in the left bicep with an elbow. From then on, Holmes didn't spar. That raised questions. Trainer Richie Giachetti told the press Holmes wasn't sparring because he was too sharp. After the fight, Giachetti revealed the injury. Holmes was examined by a specialist and underwent therapy for four days prior to the fight.
  • After defeating Norton, Holmes held the WBC title until 1983. He vacated the title after a dispute with the WBC and promoter Don King over a mandatory title defense against No. 1 contender Greg Page. Holmes then accepted recognition as champion by the newly-formed IBF and held their title until 1985.
  • Holmes defended the title against 19 fighters, the second most in history behind Joe Louis (21).
  • Holmes is the third longest reigning heavyweight champion in the history of boxing, behind Joe Louis (1937-1949) and Wladimir Klitschko (2006-2015).
  • Holmes vs. Norton was ranked as the 10th greatest heavyweight fight of all time by Monte D. Cox, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO).
  • The 1998 Holiday Issue of The Ring Magazine ranked Holmes 5th and Norton 22nd on the list The 50 Greatest Heavyweights of All-Time.
  • The March 2001 issue of The Ring Magazine ranked the final round of Holmes vs. Norton 7th on the list The 12 Most Exciting Rounds In Boxing History.
  • In a 2009 interview with ESPN SportsNation, Holmes said his toughest fight was against Norton.

From Sports Illustrated

It was Norton's plan to make Holmes, who is essentially a stand-up counter-puncher who relies on his jab and quickness, overextend himself early and thereby tire himself out. "He claims he throws 100 punches a round," Norton said. "So if I can make him throw 150 I've done my job. I'll make him work harder than he wants to work."

And so, Norton started slowly, very slowly, and he would say later that it was his critical mistake. With Norton tucked into his turtle defense and punching hardly at all, Holmes won four of the first five rounds, largely on the strength of the persistent jab.

"Now it's my turn," Norton told Bill Slayton, his trainer, in the corner. In the sixth he shook Holmes with a powerful right to the head; in the seventh he hurt him with a right to the body followed by a left hook to the head. Midway through the seventh he banged Holmes on the left biceps with a looping right hand. For a moment Holmes thought the arm had gone dead.

Now Norton really poured it on, advancing relentlessly, chasing Holmes and finding him often. After losing four of the first five rounds on all cards, Norton won five of the next six. But the violent pace had taken its toll; both men began to show signs of exhaustion. His jab working effectively once more. Holmes took the 12th.

Then they exchanged two big rounds. Holmes dominated the 13th, staggering Norton twice with right hands. Both had to push themselves to come out for the 14th; Norton pushed himself a little harder. Twice he staggered Holmes, and just before the bell he ripped him with six straight punches to the head and body.

Norton, who was superbly conditioned, started strongly in the 15th—jabbing, hooking, pounding Holmes with overhand rights. Holmes threw four punches, then Norton was on him again. Blood was pouring from a cut inside Holmes' lower lip, which had been split in the eighth round. The next morning it would need 11 stitches.

"Move. You've got to move!" Giachetti screamed at him, and Holmes began to move. Ignoring the pain knifing through both arms, he also began to attack. They stood there toe to toe, no thought of defense, barely able to stand, but swinging. Then, punching furiously, Holmes took command and, just before the bell, staggered Norton with a right.

Only with a great effort of will did each make it back to his corner without falling. Then came the decision.

Judge Buck: 143-142 for Holmes. Judge Tabot: 143-142 for Norton. Judge Swessel: 143-142 for Holmes. "...and the new heavyweight champion of the world...."


  • AP "Norton Has Point To Prove In Friday Bout With Holmes" June 4, 1978 [1]
  • UPI "Ken Norton: I'll kayo him'" June 6, 1978 [2]
  • UPI "Holmes a 'minority of one' in selecting next champion" by Milton Richman, June 7, 1978 [3]
  • AP "Norton slight favorite in 'grudge' showdown" June 9, 1978 [4]
  • AP "Holmes gets boxing title" June 10, 1978 [5]
  • UPI "Holmes Defeats Norton In Final Round" by Joe Sargis, June 10, 1978 [6]
  • AP "Holmes discloses injury almost prevented Norton match" June 11, 1978 [7]
  • AP "Two of a kind" by Will Grimsley, June 13, 1978 [8]
  • Sports Illustrated "For Holmes, It Wasn't So Elementary" by Pat Putnam, June 19, 1978 [9]
  • Cox's Corner "The 10 Greatest Heavyweight Fights of All Time" by Monte D. Cox [10]
  • Bleacher Report "Boxing Round of the Day: Holmes and Norton in Greatest Round of HW History", July 25, 2011 [11]
  • Bleacher Report "Ranking the 10 Gutsiest Performances in Boxing History" by Briggs Seekins, May 17, 2013 [12]
  • WMFZ-TV (Allentown, PA) "Larry Holmes Celebrates Anniversary of Title Fight" June 6, 2013 [13]