Through the early rounds Norton pressed his savage body attack, with Young trying to slow him down with jabs. In the third Norton pounded two punches to the body and then caught Young on the chin with a short, savage hook. Young staggered back, shaking his head. Later he said it was the only punch that had really hurt him. The attacks ebbed and flowed; seldom were both fighters at rest.
Meanwhile, none of the judges was seeing the same fight. Take the third and fourth rounds: Lurie gave them both to Young; Rondeau gave them both to Norton; Baldeyrou saw them both as even.
Through the first nine rounds Norton kept boring in and scoring to the body; Young kept surviving, but also scoring with jabs, right-hand leads and occasional flurries. Then Young switched his attack and became more aggressive. He opened up with heavier guns. Well, heavy guns for him. He was in command from then through the 14th round, and it was at that point that Ali, who was in the front row, leaped to his feet to scream, "I don't want to fight Norton again. Beat him, Young! Beat him!"
In the corner Slayton told Norton that he needed to win the 15th round. Across the way Young's people figured they had the fight locked up. Angelo Dundee, Ali's trainer, had sent word that he thought Young was out in front. "I always did go for a boxer," Dundee said later.
Storming out, Norton picked up his attack to the body. Young went to work on the head. With so much at stake, neither dared to pause. For the full three minutes they banged each other about the ring. Then it was over. Norton had won the last round. And then that curious decision was announced.
Afterward, Jose Sulaiman, the president of the World Boxing Council, announced that Ali had 60 days to sign to fight Norton and six months in which to fight him or to be stripped of his title. Promoter Don King said he would offer the champion $8 million to defend against Norton. Biron said King could have a 30-day option on Norton's boxing services. Then everybody sat back to await Ali's pleasure.
Typically, Ali was having none of it. For one thing, he had already announced a Feb. 15 title fight against the survivor of next week's Leon Spinks-Alfio Righetti bout. For another, why should he obey the WBC? "I'm not going to sign, and we'll see what they're going to do to me," Ali told ABC-TV in a ringside interview. After all, he had just fought Earnie Shavers, Ali said, and "they going to tell me I don't have the right to rest?" Off in his dressing room, Jimmy Young maintained that he had won and should be meeting Ali. He did admit, however, that Norton was a much better fighter than he had believed. Also, he said that the reason he had failed to produce the promised blood was that Norton had skin like rawhide.
As for Norton, he said that Young was a fine and tough opponent. Just as soon as he had taken the title away from Ali, Norton said, he would be glad to give Young another shot.
Then everybody went home. As the arena emptied, a Los Angeles fight figure named Vein Head was heard to say, "Y'know, Blinky doesn't have the old clout like he used to."