SI Vault
 
Make him 38 and one
Pat Putnam
May 23, 1977
The bell rang, Bobick stepped out—and became America's great white hopeless
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
May 23, 1977

Make Him 38 And One

The bell rang, Bobick stepped out—and became America's great white hopeless

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

When it was all over, with Duane Bobick on his feet but in no condition to go on and with Kenny Norton bounding about the ring as though he were on a pogo stick, it seemed that there had been an extraordinary amount of fuss for just 58 seconds of fighting. That is, if you care to call what happened in Madison Square Garden last week fighting. Granted, the outcome was supposed to be secondary to the big prize awaiting the winner, wasn't it? Norton will now get $2.25 million by fighting Muhammad Ali for the world heavyweight championship this September in Brazil, won't he?

Forgive the hollow laughter. Ali, who had watched the fight on television at his Landover, Md. training base, was not about to climb into a ring against Norton again, this fall or indeed anytime soon. He had other plans.

"Hmmmm," mused Ali, who would soon go on TV himself to demonstrate the proper way to make a Spanish omelet, "now I think it would be nice if Norton fought Jimmy Young. Then I will fight the winner of that fight."

There was an explanation why Ali's camp waited until the Norton-Bobick fight was over before announcing that boxing's finger had once more written a contract in the sand and, having written, moved on. If Bobick had won—an outcome Ali badly wanted—the champion would have kept the date in Brazil. However, as you noted on television, unless you blinked, Bobick is no Ken Norton.

Apparently it is Ali's belief that the most he can ask of his old bones is to carry him through one more tough fight, and he is in no hurry to make such a punishing request. Not when he can pick up a million now and then fighting Raggedy Andys like Alfredo Whatshisname, the Spaniard out of Uruguay en route to oblivion. " Norton didn't beat nobody," said Ali, who knows a nobody when he sees one in the ring.

Until the pre-fight hype swayed a few minds, that had been the assessment of Bobick, the gentle 26-year-old ex-Olympian. Thirty-eight victories over 38 has-beens and never-will-bes doesn't get you out of elementary school. Sooner or later, if you are ambitious, it can get you killed. If you're going to leap into white water, you shouldn't spend all your time in a wading pool.

Against the inexperienced Bobick, Norton was a raging torrent. Bobick's best weapon is unending pressure; he plods in close and stays there, banging away relentlessly until the other man falls, usually from exhaustion. So Norton came out sideways, like a crab, expecting to meet the oncoming Bobick with a hook and an uppercut. Only Bobick never came.

"I'm always a slow starter," Bobick sighed later. "I guess I started even slower than usual."

Surprised, Norton moved in, probing with a right to the body. He watched Bobick's eyes. When they moved to follow the course of the body punch, Norton unleashed a seemingly wild overhand right. It only seemed wild; it is one of the big punches in Norton's repertoire. It thundered against the side of Bobick's head, sending him reeling backward. A savage when the fight is going his way, Norton stormed in after his stunned opponent.

He smashed a left hook and a right to the body; another right speared the head. Then Norton drove a right uppercut against Bobick's Adam's apple. Gagging, his eyes tearing so that he had difficulty seeing, Bobick staggered back toward his corner.

Continue Story
1 2 3