Ken Norton taunted Muhammad Ali from afar today after finishing the hard work for his 12-round bout against Duane Bobick Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
"I don't blame Ali for boxing (Alfredo) Evangelista," Norton said. "He blew up in size while making his moive and needs a fight like that. I can't rap him for not meeting one of the top three or four contenders until he gets a bout like that under his belt.
"He was very smart. But I think they should bill it as a nontitle fight or an exhibition bout, not a championship."
Norton was alluding to Evangelista being a "compromise choice" for the ranking as No. 10 contender by the World Boxing Council. The World Boxing Association had ranked the Spaniard in its top 10 previous to the WBC.
Ring magazine, which has been under fire for its rankings of some fighters in the suspended U.S. Boxing Championship tournament, did not rank Evangelista among its top 10.
While Norton was being interviewed, a publicist volunteered that Norton has been ranked No. 1 contender for Ali's title by the WBA ans WBC.
Someone asked where Ring magazine ranked him and Norton said, in view of the charges of scandal between promoters and television networks, "probably about 20th."
"The way everything has been jumping up and down (in boxing controversies recently), I'm not going to get into that."
Norton beat on a sparring partner with the ironical name of Eddie (Bossman) Jones and later said he was given an incentive to get into superb condition by Ali.
Norton explained when asked if he thought Ali ducked him and Bobick by temporarily retiring after a disputed decision over Norton in October. The Garden even sued Ali to try to make him honor a contract he signed to fight Bobick before his retirement. The suit was dismissed in a federal court.
"Ali just wanted to make his movie picture," said Norton, who has screen credits in the hit film "Mandingo."
"I was so depressed at first after Ali said he was retiring that I was going to retire too, because I was sure I won my last bout with Ali and was afraid I would not get a chance to make up for that injustice."
"When I took the bout with Bobick my mind was not on my training at first. I was only there physically, not mentally. But after the bout with Bobick was postponed by his claim of a rib injury, I was rejuvenated mentally when Ali finished his film and said he may fight the winner of my bout with Bobick. So the layoff helped me and hurt Bobick.
Norton said he has been relaxing by reading a script for a television special with racial and sexual aspects. Ali has criticized Norton for appearing in Mandingo wearing only a jockstrap.
Norton bristled once during the interview, when someone asked his age.
"How old do you want me to be?" he said, "31, 32, 33 . . . 26?" He did not go beyond that. Publicity releases have listed him as 31. Bobick is 26.
Norton lashed at sparring partner Jones for four rounds as if he were indeed 26. He cut Jones' mouth in the final round during a fast exchange and said out loud, "I wonder if Bobick is that fast?"
After he took off the gloves, Norton's timing appeared to be off as he clowned while shadow-boxing and accidently cut Jones' lip with a swing of his taped fist.
Jones complained bitterly about the humiliation and would not react to Norton's attempt at a humorous apology, until Norton jumped on his back and got him laughing.
Jones continued to complain and Norton said to his handlers, "give him $800 extra for today's workout," as an implacable Jones gargled and spat blood.