By Tim Gaynor
PHOENIX (Reuters) - Ken Norton, the former heavyweight boxing champion who broke Muhammad Ali's jaw in a 1973 bout, died on Wednesday at a hospital in Arizona, according to his manager.
Norton, 70, who died in Bullhead City, Arizona, had been suffering from congestive heart failure, said Patrick Tenore, the boxer's corporate manager and friend.
"He's been in rehab (for ill health) for almost a year … and early this afternoon, he passed away," Tenore told Reuters. "He was not only a tremendous boxer, but also the most righteous, polite, generous human being."
Norton took up boxing as a heavyweight when he was serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, and turned professional after his release from duty in 1967, according to ESPN.
A power puncher, he broke Ali's jaw during their first fight in 1973, claiming the North American Boxing Federation heavyweight title in a split decision over 12 rounds.
Ali narrowly won a split decision in a rematch nearly six months later, and held on to his heavyweight title in a bruising third encounter in 1976.
Norton won a heavyweight title eliminator the following year, and was subsequently declared champion by the World Boxing Council. He lost the title in 1978 in an epic 15-round fight with Larry Holmes.
Norton retired in 1981. He ended his career with a record of 42 wins, seven losses and a draw. He had 33 knockouts.
(Additional reporting by Edith Honan in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney)