Ron Lyle: The Only Fighter To Hurt Foreman In Maybe The Finest Hour For Both

Over the course of his stellar heavyweight career, how many times can it be said that former two-time champion George Foreman was ever hurt by another fighter to the point that he was stumbling all over the ring? The answer to that question is once, and that occurred on January 24, 1976. And that was courtesy of a big right hand landed by former contender and title challenger Ron Lyle 43-7-1 (31). Sadly, November 2011 has claimed another pillar heavyweight from the seventies as former title challenger Ron Lyle has joined former champ Joe Frazier at his final resting place.

Ron Lyle is best remembered for his title bout with heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali and his five round slug-fest with George Foreman nine months later. Lyle is also remembered for his two-handed power, especially in his right hand. However, what’s often missed when Lyle’s career is discussed is the fact that his boxing style was unique and rare, that is until Lennox Lewis and the arrival of Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko. Throughout the modern era circa 1880 to the present there haven’t been many outstanding heavyweights who fought as a boxer-puncher.

There’s been some great boxers, swarmers, punchers and sluggers, but the only great boxer-punchers prior to 1970 were former champs Joe Louis and Sonny Liston. If you continue on chronologically, Lyle’s name would bridge the gap between Louis and Liston and Lennox Lewis and the Klitschkos as far as outstanding/great boxer-punchers. Ron Lyle was an outstanding boxer-puncher. He had a blunting left jab, threw tight upper-cuts and hooks as counters to the head and body, and he also had a very powerful conventional right cross to the head. Ron applied subtle pressure and was very measured in his attack. He never rushed his shots or got wild.

Lyle got a late start as a pro. He was convicted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of 21-year-old gang rival Douglas Byrd at age 19. He served 7 1/2 years in a Cañon City prison where he began to box. After his release from prison he had a brief amateur career. In 1971 he knocked out 1972 Olympian Duane Bobick in the first round with one punch. Bobick was reportedly down for over five minutes. But due to the fact that Lyle needed money he bypassed the 1972 Olympic Trials and turned pro, thus opening the door for Bobick to represent the US at the Olympic Games in Munich.

As a pro Lyle was put in tough fights early because of his late start. He scored wins over Vincente Rondon, Buster Mathis, Larry Middleton, Oscar Bonavena, Jimmy Ellis, Earnie Shavers, Joe Bugner, Scott LeDoux and was avoided by Ken Norton between 1974-77. He also had the misfortune of running into Jerry Quarry and Jimmy Young on one of their better nights. He was leading Muhammad Ali after 10 rounds during their title bout before Ali landed one of the best right hands of his title tenure and then followed it up with a barrage of rights and lefts leading to the referee stopping the fight in the 11th round. After losing to Ali, Lyle knocked out Earnie Shavers and put himself in line to fight George Foreman on ABC. Foreman was making his return to the ring after his 15 month retirement after losing his undisputed title to Ali in late 1974.

When Foreman agreed to meet Lyle in his comeback fight, he and new trainer Gil Clancy probably thought Lyle would be an easy fight and early round knockout for George. They knew Lyle was fearless and wouldn’t be intimidated and would oblige Foreman and trade with him. For three rounds Foreman and Lyle traded measured bombs pretty evenly. In the fourth round the flood gates opened and Lyle and Foreman traded knockdowns of each other. Then Lyle dropped Foreman a second time and had him badly hurt. Foreman hadn’t fully recovered until the fifth round when he trapped Lyle in a corner and unloaded with non-stop hay-makers that overwhelmed Lyle and dropped him for the count.

Yes, Muhammad Ali may have stopped Foreman, but he didn’t really hurt him or have him falling all over the ring. George went down from exhaustion more than from being hurt. This wasn’t the case when Lyle dropped him. When Lyle dropped Foreman with a right hook/uppercut at the end of the fourth round, Foreman crashed to the canvas and struggled to get up and stumbled back to his corner. George was never more hurt or in trouble in any fight of his career prior to or after fighting Lyle.

Ron Lyle was an outstanding/borderline great heavyweight fighter. He was fearless and had a good chin along with being a much better and well rounded fighter than some remember him as being. He like many other heavyweights who fought during the Ali, Frazier, Foreman era circa 1965-75 had the bad luck of their birth certificate. Had Lyle fought during the eras of Marciano, Holmes, Tyson and today’s era of heavyweights, he surely would’ve won the title or at the least a version of it.

If Lyle was fighting in his prime today, Vitali Klitschko is the only heavyweight he’d have to worry about. Aside from Vitali he’d have his way with the rest of the division. He traded bombs with Earnie Shavers and won, and if he just stayed away from Foreman a little more he may have defeated him by knockout just the same. No, Ron Lyle never won the heavyweight title, but he’s the only fighter who ever hurt George Foreman and had him stumbling around the ring, ever. Nobody but Foreman would have had the character and physical attributes to have gotten up in the Lyle fight. He was badly hurt and dead the second time he was dropped. In some ways, Foreman getting up was his finest hour.

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-FighterforJC :

Ali's victory over Foreman was a fluke. The referee didn't even count to 10 and acted like he did. It wasn't even a good fight and Ali wasn't really putting it on Foreman the way you've read about it.

-Radam G :

Wow! Hehehehehe! OMG! Rev. "Big" George recalls a great a$$ thrashing. That is what he told me, anyway. Holla!

-FighterforJC :

Wow! Hehehehehe! OMG! Rev. "Big" George recalls a great a$$ thrashing. That is what he told me, anyway. Holla!
Rrrrright. Regardless of your version of whatever Foreman said, an arse-thrashing he did not get from Ali. Foreman's been known to say all sorts of things to look humble. He recently said that Frazier was the only fighter he was afraid of, but in Champions Forever he said that he was afraid of Norton. Whatever.

-Condor :

That's actually an astute observation about Foreman. I remember him saying Cooney was a monster, something along those lines, and you saw how much trouble he had with him. There were many examples of it. As for the Lyle fight, that was inartistic but a hell of a slugfest. They were both swinging for the fences. As I recall, Foreman was knocked down face first.

-Coxs Corner :

One of the great slugfests of heavyweight history was Foreman-Lyle. Foreman showed a lot of heart getting up after that 2nd knockdown and winning, most fighters would have folded mentally at that point. The only heavyeight fights in recent memory that compares to that fight is Michael Moorer-Bert Cooper in 1992 and maybe the Derrick Jefferson - Maurice Harris bombs away fight in 1999.

-FighterforJC :

Cooper-Moorer. Haven't thought of that fight for forever! I don't really count that because I never viewed Moorer or Cooper as legitimate heavyweights. With Jefferson-Harris, they weren't world class heavyweights. Foreman-Lyle was one of a kind. The closest thing I could think of in terms of sloppiness, vulnerability and unpredictability was Bowe-Golota 2.

-brownsugar :

I'm tempted to go watch Foreman / Lyle again on youtube... a street fight if there ever was one in the squared circle.

-Condor :

That's awesome and I did that earlier! Cosell and Norton were doing the commentary. That fight was pure violence. That Jefferson - Harris brawl was bombs away mayhem. Merchant said, after DJ obliterated Mo with one punch, 'Derrick Jefferson I love you!!!' True though, these guys were both journeyman, so it is in a different class. I respectfully disagree with Mike though. Wladimir would beat Lyle too, I think.

-Wesleyclyde :

Ron Lyle was not only a great fighter, but a man who overcame many obsticles in life. In later life was one of the nicest people in the boxing world. Never personally met the man but he was a hero to me growing up. Even returned a letter I sent to him when i was around 12 or 13, with a nice letter himself along with an autographed photo that i still have framed and sitting in my family room to this day. Even his lesser "big" fights, like Bonevena & Shavers were on the old UHF TV and I remember as a kid trying to tune them in among the static. One of a few 70's fighters who never won the title who would have no doubt won it today. Many experts say that no heavyweight as far back as Larry Holmes would have beat Ron. Not even Tyson. Ron was never intimidated. Maybe Holmes by a decision, but no one after. Rons death was the first death to truly upset me, of any person that I never actually met. Reading it sent a burning feeling in my gut. Rest in Peace Ron. You were the greatest in my book!

-DaveB :

I remember an interview between Ron Lyle and Howard Cosell. Lyle told Cosell that while he was in prison he was stabbed and had a little trouble on the operating table or something to that effect. Cosell almost admonished him by saying - Why are you throwing it away like that? Then Lyle said how he was on the operating table over seven hours and was pronounced dead twice but the doctors wouldn't give up. I thought to myself, boy he was throwing it away by minimizing it. Lyle also said he went to prison because he wouldn't trigger the shooter. All I know is that he was one hell of a puncher and he seemed like a genuinely nice man and I like the work he did with the youth of Denver. I'm sorry to see him go so soon.

-the Roast :

Yep, Foreman-Lyle is the wildest heavyweight brawl of all time. I used to play the VHS tape when I had people over to watch PPV cards. Somebody would always ask, "is this for real?" R.I.P. Ron Lyle.

-brownsugar :

@Condor just watched it,.. wow 8 ounce gloves too!!!.... Foreman is so lucky there was just 10 seconds left in the 4th when he went down. Lyle was just seconds away from a stoppage... Lyle was a true beast in ring...R.I.P. RON LYLE> Lyle vs Wlad?,.. woulda been a doozie.

-gibola :

Lyle was a very decent boxer-puncher at his peak and by all accounts a decent man, but I don't get carried away with how good he was. He wouldn't have beaten Holmes, Lewis or Bowe, I don't think he would beat a peak Witherspoon or Pinky Thomas but he would have fitted into that mix. He certainly would have wiped the floor with everybody today tho - except the Klitschkos. What I appreciate most about Ron Lyle was that he laid it all on the line and fought everybody. He was a real fighter and left us some fantastically entertaining fights which will live on forever. In that 20m with Foreman he achieved immortality of a sort and he should be remebered fondly by boxing fans around the globe. RIP Ron Lyle, thanks for the memories. Gibola

-mortcola :

Lyle was a real-deal, honest, tough heavyweight, who could plow and think his way past some of the best of all time. He could also be made to look wide open, slow, and ordinary. He would never have laid a glove on Wladimir, and would have been bounced around like a beach ball against Vitali. Just wrong physically and technically - a relatively slow, technically limited, much smaller fighter. RIP, dude. You made it farther than most.

-Radam G :

Yup! Big Rev. G.F. was scared silly of the late, great Smokin' Joe F. He wasn't scared of GOAT Ali and Ron L -- much luv. For once you lose fear of a pugilist, you lose the edge and don't use your head. Rev. Big G made the greatest mistakes against da GOAT Ali and against hard-punching Ron L, and that was having not the least fear of them. See at the crossroad, Ron L. Holla!

-brownsugar :

Well Mort,..... I don't think boxing pundits are gathering around in conference rooms to debate whether or not Ron would have beaten WK... but I seriously doubt he would have been bounced around like a beach ball. Ron had an inner toughness that would have at least made the fight memorable. If the new improved version of WK still took 12 rounds to dispatch Chambers which he should have been able to do in 2 or 3 rounds... Im sure the late Ron Lyle would have sent the fans home not feeling like their money was misspent and created some noteworthy moments.

-surf-bat :

Actually, I recall Evander Holyfield hurting him and having him almost out on his feet in their fight. George was slumping near the ropes (maybe even on the ropes, I can't recall) and the bell saved GF from a certain knockout.

-surf-bat :

Check out the end of round nine. If that isn't a fighter getting hurt (and hurt BADLY), I don't know what is. Nice article though. Frank is a good writer :cool: