Muhammad Ali's jaw broke by Ken Norton's fist.
Perhaps the only person at the time that knew Muhammad Ali's jaw was broken during the former champion's match with Ken Norton on March 1, 1973 was Muhammad Ali himself.
Watching recordings of the fight, (see video below) it’s possible to find the moment during the 11th round, but not even Ali’s cornerman, Wali Muhammad, could see it at the time it happened. But then came the blood.
"I was taking out the mouthpiece and there was more and more blood on it," he told Ali's biographer Thomas Hauser in Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times. "My bucket with the water and ice in it became red. In every other fight, between rounds, I’d take the mouthpiece out and put it in the bucket and there was just slobber on it. But here, after each round, I had to shake the mouthpiece to get all the blood out of it into the water.”
"Funny, the jaw didn't hurt so much in the fight," Ali later told Sports Illustrated's Tex Maule. "Under all the heat and the excitement, you don't feel it. Like a man in a street fight. He get cut in the stomach, fights on with his guts hangin' out and don't feel nothin' until he gets to the hospital."
Muhammad Ali entered the ring at the San Diego Sports Arena wearing a robe given to him by Elvis Presley. He left with a broken jaw courtesy of Ken Norton’s fist who also won the 12-round split decision to win the NABF heavyweight title.
Witnesses say Ali’s wife Belinda and advisor Bundini Brown sobbed as Ali exited the ring. From there, knowing the pain was something needing to be looked at, he went straight to hospital after the upset and underwent a 90-minute operation to repair his jaw.
For years, two myths have surrounded the infamous broken jaw. The first was many thought it had happened earlier in the match – from some like Angelo Dundee saying Norton broke the jaw in the second round, to Norton saying he did it in the last round.
Even the surgeon after wiring Ali’s jaw shut claimed it was in the very first round, “I personally don’t understand how he could have gone 11 rounds with that much pain,” said Dr. Gary Manchester. “It was a very bad break. The bone which was broken had three or four jagged edges. The edges kept poking into his cheek and into his mouth. He had so much pain during the fight that he's totally exhausted right now."
Many also believe, including Ken Norton, that perhaps people for Ali ‘were just telling a story to make their fighter look invincible – that Ali could take insurmountable pain.’ Norton claims outright, “I broke his jaw in the last round.”
The second myth centers around who actually broke Ali's jaw. In a classic 15-round battle in 1971, Joe Frazier broke the wings of the self-professed butterfly, but not his jaw. Hurried to his dressing room rather than the post-fight interview area, Ali remained there for about half an hour. Suddenly, he departed for Flower Fifth Avenue Hospital for X-rays of his severely swollen jaw. He was released from the hospital after 40 minutes and left unbandaged and with an x-ray, but nothing broken.
Ken Norton broke Muhammad Ali's jaw and Muhammad Ali himself has confirmed it.
Kenny Norton; I broke Ali's jaw in the last round 'not the 1st one as they claim'.
Muhammad Ali vs Ken Norton I - March 31, 1973 - Entire fight - Rounds 1 - 12 & Interviews
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X-rays of Muhammad Ali's broken jaw.
X-ray of ali's broken jaw in a hospital light box, signed by both Ken Norton and Ali.
X-Ray of Ali’s broken jaw. Both fighters signed the X-Ray in gold marker. source
Broken jaw X-rayof Muhammad Ali from the March 31, 1973 heavyweight bout in San Diego. Autographed by Ali and Norton. source
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