In a recent episode of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, the stage was set for an exciting and highly anticipated weigh-in between two renowned heavyweight boxers, Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton. The atmosphere was electric as the talk show host welcomed both fighters to the stage to discuss their upcoming match.

As Johnny Carson introduced Ken Norton, the audience erupted in applause, acknowledging his monumental achievement of breaking Muhammad Ali‘s jaw in their previous encounter. Norton’s record of 31 fights with 23 knockouts speaks to his formidable skills in the ring. Dressed in a unique ensemble, which he explained was due to Ali’s imminent arrival, Norton exuded confidence and excitement for the impending fight.

Carson seized the opportunity to delve into the pre-fight preparations and rituals of boxers in the heavyweight division. Despite the lack of a weight limit in this category, fighters still undergo weigh-ins as a formality. Norton, who typically weighs around 225-230 pounds, shared his rigorous training routine, which involves shedding about 20-25 pounds through intense workouts and strict dieting.

Carson also inquired about the timing of Norton’s serious training. The boxer revealed that he generally trains for approximately four to five weeks before a fight, but for this particular bout, he dedicated eight weeks to preparation, emphasizing the significance he placed on this specific match.

When Carson posed the question of how Norton predicted the fight would unfold, the boxer expressed his anticipation for an exciting clash. Norton’s formidable fighting style juxtaposed with Ali’s legendary footwork ensured a thrilling showdown. Norton was looking forward to potentially going the full 12 rounds, highlighting his preparation for the physically challenging bout.

Referencing their previous fight, Carson acknowledged the controversy surrounding Norton’s failure to knock out Ali despite fighting with a broken jaw. Norton defended his performance, explaining that even fighters like Joe Frazier, renowned for their devastating punches, were unable to defeat Ali convincingly. Norton’s admiration for Ali’s resilience was apparent, showcasing the mutual respect between the two fighters.

Carson switched gears to discuss the dietary habits of boxers during their training. Norton revealed that he consumes high protein foods, focusing on eggs, steaks, and fish. He follows a strict schedule, eating three to four times a day during regular periods and twice a day while training. Norton’s discipline and commitment to his nutrition were evident as he attributed his success to maintaining a lean physique.

Carson segued into Norton’s boxing journey, delving into his late start in the sport compared to others who began fighting at a much younger age. Norton embarked on his professional boxing career at the age of 22, relatively late compared to the likes of Ali, who began fighting as a child. Despite his later start, Norton’s rapid ascent in the boxing world showcased his natural talent and dedication.

Reflecting on his younger years, Norton shared a humorous anecdote about a fight he had as a teenager, which lasted an astonishing two hours. The fight eventually reached a point where both participants decided to walk away, holding hands instead of continuing the brawl. Norton’s upbringing in a small town in Illinois offered insight into his early experiences in the boxing world.

As the conversation continued, Carson touched upon the age at which boxers typically reach their physical peak. While boxing authorities often cite ages 27-28 as the prime years for a fighter, Norton presented a different perspective. He believed that an individual’s prime years varied depending on factors such as their fighting history and the intensity of their matches. Norton, who only started boxing at 22, mentioned that his peak years would likely be around 30-32.

Carson cheekily mentioned the public perception of fighters aging in the sport, hinting that Ali, who had been fighting since the age of 13, might be considered over the hill compared to Norton. However, Norton made it clear that he respected Ali and his impressive career, highlighting the differences in their experiences and careers.

The conversation took a light-hearted turn as Carson playfully probed Norton about his willingness to abstain from certain activities during training. Norton’s trainer emphasized the importance of focus and discipline, particularly abstaining from intimate relations. Norton acknowledged the mental conditioning aspect of his training and the belief among boxing trainers that avoiding such activities enhances a fighter’s endurance.

Carson wrapped up the conversation by commending Norton’s dedication and sacrifices in maintaining peak physical condition. Norton agreed that success in boxing required sacrifice and discipline, emphasizing the importance of being prepared for the impending fight with Ali.

The episode concluded with a preliminary weigh-in for both fighters. Norton weighed in at 216 pounds, while Ali, who had slimmed down significantly since their last encounter, registered at 210.5 pounds. The audience eagerly watched as both men stepped onto the scale, heightening the anticipation for their upcoming bout.

As the weigh-in concluded, the excitement continued to build for the monumental fight between Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton. The talk show provided a unique platform for these two legendary fighters to share their thoughts and convey their readiness for the highly anticipated match. The world eagerly awaited their clash in the ring, curious to witness the outcome of this intriguing battle between two formidable heavyweight boxers.

(Note: This article is based on a talk show transcript from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, which originally aired on July 9, 1973.)

Originally aired on September 7, 1973