Ring Magazine the “Bible of Boxing” recently came out with their top fifty heavyweights of the glove era. Ranked 40th on that list was a boxer who fought during the talent rich 70’s. He was a main stream contender for nearly a decade. He fought “The Greatest” for the title and more then held his own until being stopped in round eleven. He had “Big” George Foreman on the canvas twice before succumbing to George’s power in probably the best heavyweight fight in the last thirty years. His all action shoot out with Earnie Shavers would be a strong runner up. His name, Ron Lyle.
Ron started his career late after serving 7½ years in prison. It did not take him long to establish himself. Wins over Manuel Ramos, Jack O’Halloran, Vincente Rondon, Buster Mathis, Luis Pires and Larry Middleton moved him up in the ratings and into a bout with Jerry Quarry. Quarry was on the downside of his career and had recently suffered his second loss to Muhammad Ali. On this night though Jerry’s experience and Lyle’s lack of it was clearly evident. Jerry took Ron to counterpunching school and handed Lyle his first defeat. To Ron’s credit he quickly went back to the business of re-establishing himself. A win and a draw against Greg Peralta; knockouts over Jose Luis Garcia, Jurgen Blin, and Boone Kirkman; two decision wins over Larry Middleton; twelve round verdicts over former champion Jimmy Ellis and rugged Oscar Bonevena put Lyle back in the title picture. His only loss during this time was a decision setback against slick boxing Jimmy Young. Ron finally challenged Muhammad Ali for the world’s championship that Ali had regained the year before when he “Rope-a-Doped” George Foreman. Ali tried to use that same tactic against Lyle but Ron would have none of it. Forcing Ali to box at ring center, Ron was able to trade evenly with Ali in a very slow paced bout. In round eleven, Ali stunned Lyle and trapped him in a corner. Ali’s follow up barrage had Ron out on his feet when the referee intervened. Ron would never receive another shot at the title.
The brawl with Foreman was a classic for the ages. It pitted two of the biggest, strongest men ever to lace on a boxing glove, teeing off on each other with no regard for defense. It was a brutal war of attrition. Although Lyle lost, he probably gained more fans in defeat then in all of his previous victories. The bout with Shavers was another rock em’, sock em’ affair. This time Lyle got off the canvas to outlast Earnie and score a devastating knockout.
The loss to Foreman and another decision loss to the clever Jimmy Young forced Ron to rally toward another title shot. Hard fought decision wins over Joe Bugner, Stan Ward and Scott LeDoux again put Ron on contention. A suprising second round kayo loss to unheralded Lynn Ball dropped Ron from consideration. In his last significant bout Gerry Cooney halted Ron in one round. Ron made a brief comeback years later but it was in the 70’s that Lyle made his mark.
Too bad Ron didn’t hook up with Ken Norton during the 70’s when both were in their prime. Norton is ranked 22nd in the Ring’s top 50, but in my opinion Lyle would have taken him out. As far as dream matches, how about Lyle-vs-Cleveland Williams or Mike Weaver. Maybe a battle of ex-cons with Lyle facing Sonny Liston. Now those would be some interesting match ups.