farewell to a champion

 

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This is a quick note on Ken Norton … heavy weight boxer who just passed away at the age of 70 .. and a champion in the ring and outside the ring.

 

Let me say some things because I met Ken Norton.

First.

I am not a boxing fan … I don’t really understand the allure of watching two men beat the crap out of each other in a ring. But I imagine I probably wouldn’t have understood gladiators in the coliseum in ancient Rome.

 

Regardless.

 

Second.

Whether I ‘get’ something or not … I can respect greatness. And I can recognize a true champion <not just a winner but a … well … winner in Life too> I was a young adult at the time of Ali, Frazier, Foreman and Norton in the boxing world. Everywhere you turned heavyweight boxing was being discussed. And respected. It was a show with substance. And the substance was not only a reflection of the quality of the output <the boxing itself> but a reflection of the quality of the competitors as men. Sure … they were typical flawed men … but men with substance.

Norton was seemingly the pinnacle of character and substance.

 

Third.

How can I sincerely say what I just said?

<about his character and substance>

Well.

I can’t say I really met Norton but rather I can honestly say our paths crossed several times in the late 70’s and early 80’s. As a Contemporary Security Company <CSC> quasi-security guy working my way through college in Los Angeles I met Ken at several events and even sat a bar having beer with him by my side once. <I have shared some CSC stories before … an example:

http://brucemctague.com/there-is-a-time-to-talk-and-a-time-to-act-part-1 >

 

 

 

He was quiet, a gentleman, polite … and while a world champion … he almost seemed like he didn’t want people to know. He certainly did not go out of his way to flaunt it.

 

Being a non-boxing fan … I didn’t even know who he was the first time our paths crossed. I was working backstage at some event <I am guessing a concert but cannot remember> when he casually walked up to me to gain access to the ‘private’ back stage area. I asked to see his pass. My supervisor happened to be walking by and stopped and leaned over and said “he’s okay … let him in” … and I stepped aside.

The gentleman that he was he said nothing to me but “thanks” as he walked by.

My supervisor told me it was Ken Norton <and I kinda felt stupid>.

 

Maybe 15 minutes later I felt someone standing behind me and I turned and it was Norton. I immediately apologized for not recognizing him and he simply shrugged it off and said “hey man … you are just doing your job.”

Hmmmmmmmmmmm … just a reminder. This is a past world champion heavy weight boxer talking to a punk college kid, standing maybe 5’ 8” at best, with a security job. As if I could have stopped him if he really wanted to get by me <answer: nope>.

And then he politely asked if it was okay of he could stand there while he waited for someone who he didn’t believe had a pass but was meeting him.

We chatted for a couple of minutes about nothing.

And then he left when his friend showed up.

 

I ran into him <not physically … or I wouldn’t be alive today> several times after that. Every time he stopped and said hello. He didn’t remember my name but he acknowledged that he remembered me.

Me.

A young punk college kid acting like a security guy/bouncer when he could have steam rolled me in 3 seconds or less.

 

You know what?

That kind of makes him a champion in my mind. Even more so than the belt he won.

 

Fourth.

Ah.

What I remember most about Ken Norton.

norton 1Beyond the fact that he treated a young college student acting like a security guard with respect … this guy was a frickin’ physical specimen.

 

He was almost 6’ 3” … maybe 220 pounds … and not an ounce of fat on him. I believe he had something like a 33 inch waist. Yes. 33 inches. Football players have thighs bigger than that. When he first walked up to me I vividly remember thinking “jesus h christ this guy is a stud <who could beat the living crap out of me if I am not careful>.”

note: we fake security guys actually thought things like that mostly out of self-preservation.

 

Norton was a stud.

 

The only gripe anyone had with him as a boxer was that maybe he was in too good shape … he needed more bulk. Well. I am not a boxing expert … but I do know that other than maybe 2 or 3 guys in the world … he coulda beat the living crap out of anyone else.

 

Lastly.

In 1973 Norton was awarded the Napoleon Hill Award for being an “outstanding positive thinker.” Norton was the first athlete and the first African American to receive the honor.

 

The guy was a champion.

In the ring and outside the ring.

 

It’s worth remembering someone like Norton cause I tend to believe the sporting world, heck, the world in general … needs more Nortons.

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Written by Bruce