Ron Lyle's conviction for second degree murder in his teens may have been a blessing in disguise. While in prison Lyle found boxing and joined the prison team where his talent was evident. Upon his release in 1969 Lyle began his amateur career at the Denver Elks gym and became the United States Amateur Heavyweight Champion in 1970. His professional career culminated in a May 1975 shot at Muhammad Ali's heavyweight title. Beating Ali going into the eleventh round, Lyle was hurt and took almost twenty punches before a controversial stoppage. Lyle would not get another title shot and retired with a record of 43-7.
SM: Ron how did your boxing career get started?
RL: I first got started in Colorado while in prison. We didn't get to fight much, I think I had like fourteen or fifteen fights. They brought in some guys from the Army sometimes to box but it was very limited. When I found boxing it was a blessing from God.
SM: What was your amateur career like after being paroled?
RL: I was an amateur for about nine years or so. I really had nothing else after I got out of prison. As an amateur I was the National Amateur Heavyweight champ in 1970.
SM: So when did you turn pro?
RL: I was about twenty-eight. If I would have started ten years prior to that there's no telling what I could have done, but that's hindsight. God blessed me and took me along and I met a lot of people along the way.
SM: You were 19-0 when you faced Jerry Quarry in February 1973, who most said you would have no problems with, what happened?
RL: I beat Quarry, he got the decision. He had just signed a contract with the Garden. I know I beat him; I have the tape and watch it all the time. But that's boxing; there are always two sides to the game.
SM: Jimmy Young beat you twice, in 1975 and 1976, why was he so difficult for you?
RL: I thought I beat him both times, I'll leave it at that.
SM: Anything you would have done differently in the Ali fight?
RL: I mean what could I have done differently, I won ten of eleven rounds! The referee never gave me a mandatory eight count, that's what my rulebook says he has to do.
SM: Everyone I have ever interviewed who fought Earnie Shavers says he was the hardest puncher ever, your take?
RL: Absolutely, that dude could punch, man.
SM: You fought until 1980, losing to Gerry Cooney in one round, and then retired for fourteen years. What did you do during this time?
RL: I enjoyed my life. I was living in Las Vegas and was involved in boxing, training kids and such.
SM: Why the comeback in 1995 after fourteen years?
RL: Just to see. All fighters like to know if they can still do it. I'm not the only one. That was just a personal fight. And once you see that you can get by and make some money or get a title shot, you'll do it.
SM: You had some success knocking out all your four opponents and then hung it up again, why?
RL: Well I wanted to fight George Foreman and they said Ron who? They forgot who I was so I said there was no use wasting my time. If I couldn’t get a shot at the big money then I was just wasting my time.
SM: Toughest opponent, Foreman, Shavers, who?
RL: Without a doubt Earnie Shavers. That's the guy that made me get off the ground.
SM: Which fight are you most proud of?
RL: All of them and I always gave my best.
SM: You still follow boxing today?
RL: Yea, I train fighters so I keep up on it. I train amateurs and pros here in Denver.
SM: Any thoughts on the heavyweight division today?
RL: You know it's as strong I guess as it has been in years. You got all those fighters from Europe that are pretty good.
SM: How do they compare to your era?
RL: You know I never like to compare yesterday to today because those guys learned from yesterday. We learned from Liston and those guys, so I just don’t like to compare fighters because times are different, the reasons for fighting are a lot different. It's all about the money now. When I fought it was all about getting respect from your peers.
SM: Any fighters you wanted to fight but didn’t get a shot to?
RL: I wanted to fight anybody that was ahead of me, I didn’t care who it was. If you were ahead of me I wanted to fight you. If you had the title I wanted to fight you.
SM: Final thoughts Ron?
RL: None really, but if I had to do my life over again I would do it exactly the same way.
SM: Thanks Ron for talking to me.