BY PHILIP H. ANSELMO
In the late 1980’s, maybe even the very, very early ‘90’s, my Ultra-stocked collection of fights from all over the world (on the now old, bulky and somewhat useless VHS format) was getting out of hand. The more fights I had, the more complete I felt as a person. I “tape-traded” with several people around the US, kinda the same way I’d collect Hardcore/Metal demos or vinyl- with a vengeance!
But there was one fight from 1976 (back in the B.C. Betamax days) that was highly sought after, because a good copy was hard to find. My copy SUCKED!!! It looked like it had been transferred from a badly damaged machine bereft of tracking options and full of blank spots that reeked of pure degeneration during key parts of historically violent rounds. And, not to mention, this particular fight is/was one of the greatest heavyweight wars in history.
To have the copy I had was blaspheme. But to NOT have a copy at all was almost worse. So I’d kill my eyes watching these blurry, static-ridden hulking men smashing each other from pillar-to-post like some torturous religion… constantly!
To get to the point, I’m talking about the gargantuan fight for the vacant NABF Heavyweight Title between former-jailbird-now-deceased-at-70-years old Ron Lyle and “Big” George Foreman.
A quick backtrack on the hunt for a good copy of the greatly-hyped ‘Foreman-Lyle’ fight brought me back to a time in my life where I was working out with my 1st (and only) boxing coach (Mad Maxx Hammer) in Dallas Texas at a former heavyweight boxer’s gym by the name of Lynn Ball.
Ball had actually fought, and beaten Ron Lyle in 1979 (a pretty incredible feat for the smallish Ball), but all the old pro would talk about in the gym was the war between “Big” George and Lyle, which drove me even crazier.
Thank goodness for my buddy Ray Poplowski and his excellent boxing video/DVD connections back in the day(s). Without his help and passion for quality over quantity, I would have never had the chance to own a clear, flawless copy of the fight. I now probably have 6-useless versions of the fight…HA!
If you’ve never seen this fight, the first 3-rounds might have you asking, “Why is this a classic”? It’s true; rounds 1-through-3 are lumbering and sloppy with limited action. But rounds 4 and 5 contain some of the most awesome back-and-forth heavyweight brawling ever seen. No to mention the insane blow-by-blow calls out of Howard “The Voice” Cosell… “Foreman is down!”… “Now Lyle is down!”… And finally, “George fought back!”… “George fought back!” after all was said and done at 2: 28 of the fifth round. George had won, but he had been through nothing like this in his pro career EVER. Even today, when asked what his toughest fight was, George will freely admit it was the Ron Lyle fight. “I thought I was gonna die” Foreman would later admit.
Ron Lyle was one of the unsung badasses during one of the heavyweight division’s most golden of times. He fought all-comers, win or lose. He lost to Jerry Quarry, Jimmy Young (twice), Foreman, Muhammad Ali and Gerry Cooney. But he beat the likes of Buster Mathis, Juergen Blin, Oscar Bonavena, Jimmy Ellis, Earnie Shavers, Joe Bugner and Scott LeDoux.
Not impressed? Well, guys that could box a little had his number a lot of the time, but Lyle’s punch was like a mule’s kick, and his chin was solid-but-suspect, and that always made for intriguing match-ups.
Foreman was coming off a loss to Ali (his 1st pro defeat) when he signed-up to meet Lyle nearly 2-years later. Can you imagine the questions going into this fight?
Unlike a guy like Mike Tyson who fought the hapless Henry Tillman in his first comeback fight after losing to Buster Douglas, Foreman had no cupcake in front of him in Lyle, and the world knew it. There were plenty of divided opinions going into this epic battle.
The final two-brutal rounds won them the Ring Magazine Fight of The Year, so it wasn’t, or isn’t just my over-enthusiasm for this particular battle. The world saw it the same way everyone who has ever seen this brawl saw it: pure, raw, brutal and conclusive. It was not tactical nor technically executed, just plain street-fighting-style vicious.
With the recent passing of the semi-great, yet ultra-important Joe Frazier, I thought it was only fitting to share my thoughts on the somewhat unsung Ron Lyle, even if it’s only a tidbit of his history. But he deserves a proper send-off, properly done or not.
RIP Ron Lyle.
Be cool all-
Philip H. Anselmo is a musician, vocalist, songwriter for such groups as Pantera, Down, Super Joint Ritual and Arson Anthem. You can keep up with Phil’s latest music production and going-ons at www.thehousecorerecords.com
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