The finish came so quickly that one startled member of the press in Madison Square Garden said, "After the fight ended and I went to look at my notes, there weren't any notes." Barely, a dozen seconds after the opening bell, the uncommonly eager Ken Norton rang a gong in Duane Bobick's head with a sudden and solid right hand. For the wounded Bobick it was the first signal that school was out.
There soon were others, most right hands that, Norton said, "I brought over the top." He had his man hurt and now he was minded to get a quick knockout, as if to get himself into the Guiness Book of Records and take poor Bobick with him. Perhaps he did. After 58 seconds of the first round, it was all over, and abreak down of Norton's $500,000 purse indicated he had earned $9,8000 per second.
Norton won it for the morning newspaper, whose deadlines were endangered by the NBC network's arrangement that strated the main bout at 10:32. "My kind of guy," a grateful a.m. reporter told Norton in the dressing room." We made all editions."
Norton explains that he had knocked out Bobick practically on invitation. "I thought he'd pressure me, but when he stood around after the opening bell, not doing much, I decided to take some shots at him." They all connected Bobick was not hit, plenty of catch. He tried two tentative left jabs, missed with only right he threw, and after that was a one-man receiving department.
Somewhere among the overhand rights with which the swarming Norton attacked was one cruel shot. Somehow, probably when Bobick's head was tilted back, a punch caught him in the Adam's apple and cut of much of his breathing, flooded the tear ducts caused hemorragingin his voice box and made it difficult for him to see. This complaint by the hapless Bobick, whose voice was a painful rasp after the fight was validated by the New York State Athletic Commission doctor.
But it wasn't the reason Bobick lost the fight. Much of the damage already had been done by Norton, who simply walked in and took the fight away from Bobick, and out of him. Bobick, now managed by Joe Frazier, was fighting for The Smokin' Joe Corp., according to the robe he wore into the ring. But it was Norton who came out smoking while Bobock, it appeared, was content to wait for things to develop. "I'm a slow starter," he had said.
So, so much for the unbeaten record that Bobick took into the ring, the 38-0 record that said he'd won all of his fights since turning pro. About that 38-0 record, one reporter inquired of Bobick whether it hadn't been compiled against a long, thin line of stiffs expecially arranged for him. "There must have been at least one live one in the bunch," Bobick said. In any event, he found a live one in Norton.
This was the fight his manager Joe Frazier, didn't want Bobick to take. Frazier, however, deferred to his, and Bobick's trainer, the esteemed Eddie Futch, who said Bobick was ready for the likes of Norton. In answer, it was in Bobick's own corner that Norton beat him to the floor, virtually dumping him in Futch's lap.
It was Frazier who helped Bobick pay the $150,000 to get his release from his previous manager with a title shot against Muhammad Ali in view. Bobick was strong, and he was learning fast, and nobody had licked him, and heaven knows how much he would command as the long-waited "white hope" aginst Ali. At least millions. And it was implied that Futch, who had trained Norton, knew that kind of fighter could beat both Norton and Ali.
Also, hanging over Norton's reputation was that horrible two-round knockout he absorbed from George Foreman in Caracas three years ago when he showed no zest for fighting. That decision he won from Ali last September, but didn't get from the judges, was supposed to have dimmed Norton's zest for fighting. Ali is not eager to fight him again, and, anyway, Norton's zeal for fighting. Ali is not and fancies himself a movie actor.
But he was loose and eager for another shot at Ali in the interview room after his one-round demolition of Bobick. Norton was making jokes, ha ha. "Did you hit Bobick in the Adam's apple?" "No, the referee did." . . . and, "Could Bobick have continued when the referee stopped it?" "That liffy. If the Pope was a Protestant he wouldn't be Pope."
Before they went into the contest, both Norton and Bobick were sitting on $20,000 good faith payments in addition to their gurantees of $500,000 and $250,000; this was money each was getting from boxing's newest wheeler-dealer, California Ben Thompson, who wants to promote a Muhammad Ali title bout in Rio de Janeiro. He got their signatures to fight Ali for a who won, and was covering both possibilities.
For Ali, Thompson is supposedly dangling a $12-million gurantee to of contingencies, like Argentina's willingness to help with the purse, and pay-TV revenues. Ali does not car, particularly, to fight Norton, who has licked him once and was done out of two other decisions in their three fights. But for something like $12 million, ALi would see the advantages.