Tough actor: Ken Norton
FRANKFURT — It has been rumored that heavyweight boxer Ken Norton, the man who broke Muhammad Ali's jaw in a March, 1973 bout, has gotten soft since he began a stint as an actor.
Decide for yourself:
In Norton's words, "I'll either be the world champion in one or two years, or I'll be retired ... and I don't have any intentions of quitting boxing until I get old."
At 30, Norton is a long way from becoming part of the over-the-hill gang.
Norton is in Europe to promote the movie "Mandingo," a Dino de Laurentiis production in which he plays a starring role. This is his first film.
During an interview here Norton said his boxing career has not ended. "Since I did the movie I have been in three fights and have more planned for the future."
His next fight is scheduled Sept. 26. On the 27th he plans to be in Manila to watch the Ali-Frazier bout.
When asked to predict the winner of that match, Norton said, "I'd really rather not make any predictions." But earlier in the interview he had said, "It is going to be a good fight, but I have a lot of confidence in Joe; he's a good fighter."
If Ali wins that fight, Norton said arrangements have been made for the two of them to be matched sometime later in the year.
But, he said, there are no negotiations yet under way for a Norton-Frazier bout.
In the past some boxing critics have said Norton and Frazier would not make a good match since the two were once sparring partners and have a close relationship even outside the boxing arena. About this Norton said, "You know, sometimes when brothers fight they fight harder than normal. I think when and if the two of us meet, it will be something like that."
According to Norton, he is considering acting in more movies. He said, "I got started in this movie when someone asked me to be in it. I found movies different from anything I had ever done, and that was probably the best part of it. Everyone needs to have a couple of directions going in their life."
Norton jokingly said, when asked if he were going to give up boxing for an acting career, "After my fight with Ali I might have to quit boxing. .. but Ali might have to give up boxing too."
Norton began his boxing career while in the Marine Corps. He said of his time as a Marine, "Joining the military really helped me. I was just a young spoiled brat who couldn't even change a tire on a bicycle."
As a tip to military boxing hopefuls, Norton said, "All you have got to have to make it is dedication."
Norton said he finds boxing and acting similar in many respects. He said, "They are both show businesses, but I like boxing better because I know what I am doing."
He admitted, "Right now in the movies I am just learning. Movies are more fun than fighting, but I still know more about boxing right now. Boxing is more money, and so it's more fun."
According to Norton, learning to act and learning to box are about the same. He said, "In both you first have to get the fundamentals. They are both the same because you have to have concentration and research and you have to learn your partner.
"Both boxing and acting are mental exercises," he said. "In the ring I am not as calm as I am now. As in the movies, you learn to incorporate yourself into another individual."
While not politically oriented, Norton told German reporters, "I don't think we really have a race problem any more in America. At one time there was one, all right, but that was a time when everyone was worrying about each other's problems and not about how to get ahead. Everyone is still worried to a certain extent, but rather than just sitting around worrying, they are working to find possible things to do which make for progress."
About the movie "Mandingo," Norton said, "I really thought the movie was interesting. In my generation and the generation after mine we don't realize what the black man had to go through. To me it showed a lot — you cannot take life for granted."
"Mandingo" is a film about the slave trade in Louisiana in the year 1840. According to Norton, the point of the film is "to show how strong the black woman had to be, to show what she had to endure to keep her man strong."
He said, "The movie showed what steps had to be taken to change from a house slave or field slave to the doctors or lawyers we have today."
Norton is proud of his role in the film. He said, "Now that I have a few acting lessons behind me I can see some mistakes I made in my acting, but I am happy with my part in the film"
He also said his boxing fans will enjoy the film. "Some of my boxing fans have already seen the film and are happy with what I have done," he said.