10. Holmes vs. Norton. June 9, 1978. Las Vegas. Result: Holmes W 15 (split).
Near the end of the Ali era two outstanding heavyweight contenders met for the WBC heavyweight title in a great fight to determine the future of the division. The stage was set when Muhammad Ali lost his title in a match against unheralded Leon Spinks. Spinks agreed to face Ali in a lucrative rematch that fall in a fight where Ali would regain the title for the third time. In the meantime, Spinks, the new champion, was stripped by the WBC for refusing to meet their mandatory challenger Ken Norton who was awarded the title. Norton had to defend against the new number one contender one Larry Holmes. Larry was considered a sort of generic or poor mans Ali by the press and public at the time. This fight would establish that Holmes was indeed a superb fighter. Norton had gave Ali three very close fights and many believed he had deserved the decision in their last fight at Yankee Stadium two years previous. Larry used his strong jab and agile footwork to box his way to an early points lead over the more aggressive Norton. In the early stages Holmes hand speed looked like too much for Norton to deal with. Kenny rallied in the middle rounds using pressure and strong body punching to bring the fight close. After 12 rounds Larry still held a slight lead on the judges cards and most ringsiders believed him to be ahead. The final three rounds are what made this fight memorable with both men trying to prove that they deserved to be called champion. Holmes had his best round of the fight in the 13th landing frequently with strong right hands. Norton came back and had his best round in the 14th as he repeatedly landed with smashing overhand rights. The 15th round was one of the best rounds in sustained action in heavyweight history, it was all out for both fighters each landing a good share of power punches. Matchmaker Bobby Goodman said, “Talk about two guys putting everything they had into every minute of a round.” It was a great round to end an exciting fight and Larry Holmes won a close but well deserved split decision.