Down Memory Lane: George Foreman vs. Ron Lyle

Cliff EasthamSenior Writer IIDecember 30, 2009

While we boxing fans wait out the conflict surrounding drug testing of the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight, I took a trip down Memory Lane and ended up in 1976.

George Foreman , about a year and a half removed from the eighth round knockout in Zaire at the hands of Muhammad Ali , found himself in a heavyweight bout with Ron Lyle .

I recall watching the fight on Saturday, Jan. 26 on ABC Sports. Howard Cosell (may he rest in peace) was calling the fight alongside Kenny Norton whom Foreman had dispatched in two rounds a couple years earlier.

Little did anyone know that this would be the Fight of the Year , as voted by Ring Magazine.

Foreman, coming off an exhibition where he beat five boxers in succession, was trying to prove he didn't leave everything he had in Africa in 1974.

Ron Lyle entered the fight with a record of 31-3 having lost decisions to both Jerry Quarry (may he rest in peace), Jimmy Young, (may he rest in peace) and was an 11th round TKO victim of Ali. Lyle was a decent boxer with very good power, having stopped Buster Mathis (may he rest in peace), Larry Middleton, Juergen Blin, and slugger Earnie Shavers , while beating Oscar Bonavena on points.

Round one opened with Lyle doing most of the work and landing the best shots. The second round saw Foreman coming back and throwing more jabs and cutting off the ring effectively and winning the round. The bell had actually rang a minute early while Foreman was having his way against Lyle.

The third round was a precursor of things to come. Both men had already felt the power of the other. Foreman began carrying his hands much lower than usual and Lyle was taking advantage with his overhand right that landed more than missed.

Both fighters showed the wear of seven or eight minutes against a big man, fatigued and slowed.

Round four was one of the best I have ever seen. Lyle connected with a couple hard rights and then a big left hook sent George to the canvas. He got up and seemed as though he still had his composure.

Both men were in the middle of the ring throwing hay-makers at each other. It was a big right hand that connected and sent Lyle to the floor for the first time. He looked dazed but beat the count.

They were back at it and Foreman threw everything he had at Lyle. Big bombs were landing and then suddenly Lyle began showing life. He hit George with a wild left and the big man landed on his face, usually a sign that the end has come. The bell rang as George was getting to his feet and he wobbled back to his corner.

The ebb and flow of the fifth round was devastating. Lyle and Foreman both gave it as good as they had and just when it looked like Big George was ready for a swan dive, he hurt Lyle and pushed him against the ropes.

Lyle was defenseless and George gave it all he had. He stepped back and let Lyle fall to the canvas to be counted out.

It was sheer poetry, slugger style.

Foreman would knock out Joe Frazier for the second time before knocking out three more fighters. Then he faced Jimmy Young and was knocked down in the 12th and final round before losing a unanimous decision, after which he retired from boxing. The story is well told how he recaptured the heavyweight title 20 years after having lost it.

Ron Lyle would go on and win eight of his next 10 fights before being knocked out in the first round by Gerry Cooney in 1980 when he retired. Fifteen years later he forged a comeback and won four fights by KO before retiring for good at age 54.

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