Larry Holmes Vs. Ken Norton - The Last Great 15-Round World Heavyweight Title Fight
by James Slater: Challenging World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight champion Ken Norton at Caesars Palace in June of 1978, was a 28-year-old known as "The Easton Assassin." His real name was Larry Holmes, and the man best known for being Muhammad Aliís former sparring partner was having his first crack at the world title. The vastly experienced Norton may not have won the belt in the ring - instead being awarded the title when Leon Spinks refused to fight him instead of boxing Ali in a big money rematch - but the fight he and Holmes put on was a classic nonetheless. Holmes, the younger man by six years and with a pro record of 27-0(19) later called the fight "fifteen rounds of non-stop fighting." He was not wrong.
Article posted on 26.02.2012
Holmes had torn a muscle in his left arm prior to the fight, and had to jab through the pain. This made the supreme effort he gave even more impressive. Norton was in no mood to lose his title in his first defence and he too performed admirably. Neither guy was willing to give an inch and the action was a treat to watch. Still, as great as the fight was, it was the 15th and final round that went down most memorably in the memory banks of those who were either in attendance or watching at home on T.V.
Frequently referred to as one of the best, if not THE best, final rounds of a heavyweight title fight in boxing history, Holmes-Norton round 15 was incredible. Not only was the three minutes of action mesmerising, but the outcome of the entire fight came down to this last round. Simply put, whoever won the last round would win the fight.
Both guys fought accordingly and took turns hammering one another. Norton looked the slightly more tired of the two, but he came out and went after Holmes at the bell to start the final round. The defending champion had the better of it for the first 90 seconds or thereabouts, landing some good right hands on Holmes' head - with one of these cracking blows sending Larry's mouthpiece flying. But then the challenger came roaring back in the last 30 seconds or so - staggering and hurting Norton badly. Had there been more time Norton may well have been stopped, but the WBC champ, although exhausted, made it to the finish line. It was a truly great round and watching it all these years later it is a tough one to score. Holmes landed the bigger shots, but Norton landed more punches.
When it came down to the three judges, two of them went Holmes' way and awarded him the WBC belt via a split decision. Larry won by scores of 143-142 twice, while Kenny was given the vote by the same score by the third official. The fight had been that close.
Holmes, as fans know, kept the title he'd given his all to get his hands on for over seven long years - making 20 successful defences during his incredible reign. It could be argued, though, that the fight in which he won his title was his finest hour. Norton, though he fought on for a further three years, gave all he had left to offer than hot day in Vegas.
Almost thirty-five years on, we can only dream of seeing a heavyweight title fight as good as the one Larry Holmes and Ken Norton gave us in the summer of 1978.
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