Former heavyweight champion Ken Norton, who beat Muhammad Ali in 1973 and then lost a controversial decision to him in their third and final bout in Yankee Stadium three years later, has died.

Norton's son said his father had passed away at the age of 70 at a local care facility in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The fighter had been in poor health for the past several years after suffering a series of strokes, a friend of Norton said.

"He's been fighting the battle for two years," said Gene Kilroy, Ali's former business manager. "I'm sure he's in heaven now with all the great fighters. I'd like to hear that conversation."

Norton broke Ali's jaw in their first bout, beating him by a split decision in San Diego, California.

They fought six months later in Inglewood, California, with Ali winning following another split decision.

The two men met for a third time on September 28, 1976, at Yankee Stadium in New York and Ali narrowly won to keep his heavyweight title.

Norton won a heavyweight title eliminator the following year and was declared champion by the World Boxing Council.

On June 9, 1978, he lost a bruising 15-round fight to Larry Holmes in what many regard as one of boxing's epic heavyweight bouts and would never be champion again.

The boxer finished with a record of 42-7-1 and 33 knockouts.

Norton later embarked on an acting career, appearing in several movies, and was a commentator at fights.

He lost only once in his early fights but had fought few fighters of any note when he was selected to meet Ali.

At the time, Ali was campaigning to try to win back the heavyweight crown he lost to Joe Frazier in 1973.

Few gave Norton much of a chance against Ali in San Diego, but his awkward style and close-in pressing tactics confused Ali and the win put him in the top echelon of heavyweight fighters.

Source: Agencies