Promoter Don King said after Ken Norton was awarded a split decision over Jimmy Young Saturday night in a 15-round elimination bout that he has an offer of $8 million ready for Muhammad Ali to meet Norton in a fourth renewal of their matchups.
Norton's manager, Bob Biron, said he had signed an option giving King 30 days to make a Norton fight with Ali for the title.
But more important is the time limit of 60 days imposed by the World Boxing Council, effective Saturday, that Ali must sign to fight Norton for the title. If the champion doesn't, WBC president Jose Sulaiman of Mexico said, the WBC will strip Ali of title recognition, and there is the possibility that Norton would be declared champion.
There also is the possibility that the rival World Boxing Association would strip Ali because he hasn't fought the No. 1 contender in 14 months. That No. 1 also was Norton, who lost a highly controversial decision to Ali. Sept. 23, 1976.
But it is doubtful that WBC automatically would accept Norton as champion because his fight was run by the WBC Nevada is a WBC member.
Norton received a $1.125 million for Saturday's work, and Yong $1 million, although the live gate was scaled for a maximum take of about $500,000 exactly when Caesars Palace paid for the right to have the live bouts.
Sugar Ray Leonard received $100,000 - for his fifth bout as a professional.
This was Leonad's last eight-round bout and the presumption has to be he will be able to demand bigger purses for longer distances.
After a controversial decision which would have put many a boxer in an argumentative mood, Young was asked to comment on some timid scoring by two officials who voted against him. One voted six rounds even, the other five even.
"I think I won by about nine rounds to six," the low-key Philadelphian said, "but I don't think about the voting. I'm thankful God gave me the strength to go 15 rounds and that neither of us got seriously hurt."
Young said he would like to fight Norton again and when he was asked what he would do differently, he said, "I'd throw more punches and might win me a decision."
Norton said of being awarded the decision, "Am I surprises? I'm never surprised at how officials vote (an allusion to his thought that he was robbed of a decision over Ali in their third bout).
"It was very close, Jimmy Young is very smart, very elusive and I was very fortunate."
What did he mean by "very fortunate" did he mean it was a gift?
"No, I mean because of the way the voting has been gone against me. Because of the grace of God and the blessings of Jesus Christ we were both fortunate we were not hurt."
Unbeaten junior welterweight Leonard demonstrated for the second straight bout that his handspeed also is loaded with force; enough to knock his opponent down with a punch to the stomach and then influence his rivals finally to go down on one knee and take the full count in the next round, the sixth.
And so Augustin Estrada of Mexico because his fifth straight victim.
In the dressing room, the pride of Palmer Park, Md., was careful to stress, "I respect everyone. I fight. I'm happy just to be in the position I am in."
Norton on the other hand, did cast indirect aspersion on Young's punching power and his tactics when the going gets tough.
"I got jarred once by a good right counterpunch to the head," he said in response to a question. "Jimmy is a fairly good puncher, but he is not a devastating one."
As to handling pressure against Ali as compared to how Young did against the champion, Norton said a bit archly, "I did not try to put my head outside the ropes (as Young did against the champion in their Landover, Md., bout). Ali is getting older (35) and I'm catching him."
Norton is 32.
Despite losing the decision, Young said he did beter against Norton than Ali did in their last bout. "Ali doesn't know how to fight Norton like I do," he said. "I took more chances to get in close."
What should Ali do against Norton?
"Make sure Norton's hands are tied behind his back."