SI Vault
Dan Levin
March 25, 1974
Challenger Ken Norton is seeding a mental victory garden, but the grim reaper is likely to be champion George Foreman
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March 25, 1974

His Fight Plan Is A Planter's Punch

Challenger Ken Norton is seeding a mental victory garden, but the grim reaper is likely to be champion George Foreman

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Both Norton and Foreman will be ready physically, but Foreman's inactivity could work against him if the fight goes on for long. As he freely admits, "You can't get the kind of tension sparring that you get in a real fight."

It was almost time to leave for Venezuela. Foreman ran up a road in Pleasanton, Calif. that could double as a cliff. Then he napped and awoke to review his huge collection of blue denim outfits, including caps. He dressed, ate a fighter's breakfast, then hunched down in his motel lobby, his cap low over his eyes, not talking or moving. Later, on one of those evening walks all fighters seem to take, he said, "The weak fall by the wayside and the strong survive. But if you get beat up, it doesn't mean you're not strong: you're still strong if you accept it.

"A man told me that once in Hawaii there was this big storm, and he looked into a phone booth afterward and saw a straw sticking right through the thick glass door. And there's guys who can figure out how to get all those astronauts to the moon and back—how many times they'll use the rest room—and maybe some of those guys don't even have legs. So there's all kinds of strength. I bet somewhere there's even a math genius who can figure out something like how to balance a hundred-pound weight on top of a toothpick.

"You tell Norton," he said, "that he's messing around with a mathematician who is figuring out how to zero in on his head."

The same day in Gilman Hot Springs, Calif. Norton ate three huge steaks, did a workout and a half and read, for the fourth time that week, his favorite stanza from his favorite poem:

If you think you are beaten, you are.
If you think you dare not, you don't.
If you like to win, but you think you can't,
It's almost certain you won't.

At dinnertime Norton swaggered down to his motel dining room, the best dressed of many well-dressed men present. He showed off his two silver bracelets and three rings whose total weight was a pound or so. The newest was an inch-high volcano of platinum and 24 diamonds. A band was playing dance music, but Norton amused himself by furtively pitching olives across the dim room at a group of puzzled friends. He growled deeply toward a busboy, who looked stricken until he identified the sound. He bit his favorite waitress playfully on the arm, and she chased him around the table. Then he took his walk, reflective for a change.

"Yes, sir," he said, "this is gonna be a tough fight."

Apparently he still had some embedding to do.

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