Norton is gone now, never really having recovered from blows taken to the head and a car accident in the 1980s that nearly killed him.
So is Frazier, and other less notable alums of the great heavyweight era, like Young and Ron Lyle.
Getting hit in the head by a 90kg man can take a toll, though some weathered it better than others. I was with Leon Spinks last year when he and his wife sat in a small room at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, where he was told his brain was shrinking because of the abuse it took in the ring and out.
It was grand, though now it is not so pretty. Ali himself is nearly mute and a trembling figure these days in Arizona, ravaged by the Parkinson’s Syndrome that did what no other opponent could do — silence The Greatest.
“He’s living a more humble life now, but he’s doing good,” said Ali’s former business manager, Gene Kilroy, who visited him this year on Ali’s 71st birthday. “But he’s not the Ali he used to be when he would walk down the street and 5,000 people would follow as he yelled: ‘Who’s the greatest of all time?’”
Ali was, and of that there is little doubt. He captivated the world with his mouth outside the ring, and thrilled them with his work inside the ropes. Two wins each against Frazier and Norton and mighty upsets of Foreman and Sonny Liston were more than a career for any one man.
His supporting class was awfully good too — the last batch of heavyweights to take up boxing before the lure of basketball and American football took away so many good athletes from pursuing the sport. Like Norton, they were champions too, even if Ali always seemed to reign supreme.
They were all young once, and they were magnificent.
As another one passes, we are all lucky to be able to remember them that way.