Bob Arum figured he had the world by the tail during that late September of 1976.
He was a 44-year-old boxing promoter handling the world’s most popular fighter, Muhammad Ali. On the night of Sept. 28, Ali was to fight Ken Norton at, of all places, Yankee Stadium, the “House that Ruth Built” where there hadn’t been a prizefight since June 27, 1959, when Ingemar Johansson stunned heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson with a third-round knockout.
A big walk-up crowd was expected to witness the rubber match between Ali and Norton, a journeyman fighter who seemed to have the aging champion’s number. More than 30,000 tickets were sold in advance.
Then misfortune struck, literally, in the form of the New York City Police Department. That night in the Bronx, with striking policemen walking the picket line, roving gangs of young thugs ran wild around Yankee Stadium.
Fans, even those with tickets, stayed away, and a highly anticipated fight turned into a financial bust. Only 30,298 fans showed up to watch Ali win a controversial 15-round decision. Total walk-up sales: eight tickets.