Ron Lyle: The Dog of the Block

By Castle Chalice on December 30, 2011
Ron Lyle: The Dog of the Block
“If I had my knife, it would’ve been a different story because I was the better athlete.”

Without pretentiousness, and showing a humble appreciation for being approached, Lyle agreed to meet me for lunch…

When asked if he was bitter against Ali for receiving what he deemed was an early stoppage against The Greatest, Lyle said, “If there don’t be for Ali, you think you would be sitting here talking to Ron Lyle? About what?”

Did you ever hear somebody’s name mentioned and not know why you’d heard of them before? I mean, you’ve heard the name, but didn’t know why. To the most inquisitive amongst us, it’s like watching as the train pulls away from the platform just as you step through the turnstile—so close and yet so far.

When I was told that Ron Lyle was in the building, I knew the name, even that he was a former heavyweight from the Golden Era of Heavyweights, but that’s where it ended. It was 2009, at the National Golden Gloves tournament in Salt Lake City.

Later that day I spent a couple of hours searching the internet for all things Ron Lyle, and only then realizing that I was in the presence of a living legend. Like most great opportunities in life, they occur in a fleeting moment. But when they do, you feel it deep in your gut. Much like seeing that breathtakingly beautiful girl at the market, and no I don’t mean just any pretty girl. I mean the one that makes your heart skip a beat. The one that makes you think that she could be The One, but only if you act now.         

So the next day, when USA Boxing Head Coach Joe Zanders pointed out Lyle at ringside, I confidently made my way over to him. Without pretentiousness, and showing a humble appreciation for being approached, Lyle agreed to meet me for lunch the following day. We should all be that lucky with the girl in the market.         

Everything that I read about the circumstances surrounding a younger Lyle’s much publicized manslaughter conviction of Douglas Byrd had referenced a gang fight. But Lyle had a much different take. “I’d like to say that I was not a gang member,” he said. “There were six of us who were friends and we all grew up together. We hung out and had interests like most teenagers do—women, drinking, partying and dancing…just having fun. Byrd had a reputation for fighting, and we got into a fight. They found me guilty of second degree murder.”

While very few readers have likely witnessed a gang fight, I imagine very many have been around a street fight while drinking and partying as a teenager. Perhaps the only difference is that most of us haven’t seen a street fight involving a man as tough as Ron Lyle.

“In my days, the fighter was the dog of the block.” 

In Lyle’s case, it was the dog in him that got himself locked up for some years.     

During his stay at the Colorado State Penitentiary, Lyle excelled in sports. This was much to the dismay of a jealous inmate, who thought sticking Lyle with a knife would earn him some respect. Lyle was twice pronounced dead after the altercation, after finding himself on the short end of his own blood, about 35 pints of it. But then too, Lyle’s toughness persevered.

“I was a good athlete. The other guy couldn’t even play marbles. He saw a chance to do what he did. If I had my knife, it would’ve been a different story because as I said, I was the better athlete.” 

Lyle shared a chillingly vivid recollection of what it was like to be lying dead on the operating table, only to be brought back by the doctors. 

“I remember being on an operating table. I remember sliding down a long tube. I remember my mother pulling me back. Later, she told me that was God sparing me, but I saw my mother’s face. My mother was an angel, and that’s how she explained it to me.”     

Fistianic folklore says that the way to judge a man’s greatness in the ring—and his ultimate contribution to boxing history—is not by his record of wins and losses, but by the opponents he’s faced. Along with his National Amateur Championship status, and his professional resume engraved with ink patterns that spell out words like Mathis, Quarry, Blin, Bonavena, Ellis, Young, Ali, Shavers, Foreman, Bugner, LeDoux and Cooney—Lyle was by any measure an accomplished prize fighter. This is indeed the case, even without mentioning that he pushed Ali through 11 grueling rounds. Or that he knocked down Foreman twice in the fourth of what The Ring dubbed one of boxing’s most memorable rounds, and what some boxing purists have labeled one of the most exciting bouts of the 20th century.     

Despite Lyle’s greatness inside the ring, it was his life outside the ring that left the most poignant impression. With 18 siblings and an 11th grade reform school education, Lyle had a difficult youth but an uncanny knack of turning negatives into positives. 

“Because you have a disappointment or mishap, you can’t quit in life. You must pick up the pieces and keep going.”

On what he learned in prison: “If you let a guy push you, then next time he’ll slap you, and after that he’ll punch you. You respect everyone, and demand their respect.”

On boxing’s learning curve: “I learned a lot about winning, but even more about losing. Especially when you’re starting out, when you lose it’s because you don’t know. Why you start and finish with the jab, why you back up, circle right or left, etcetera. In boxing you peak, and when you do you can see it all. Everything is in slow motion.”

On Cus D’Amato: “He was a psychologist of the game. He understood people. He brought the best out of people and was a cornerstone in boxing.

On Jimmy Glenn: “Everybody that this man has touched was either a contender or a champ, and that says a lot about the trainer, the teacher.”

On Mike Tyson: “I love Mike, he’s a standup person. To this day, he’s still my favorite guy, because he’s the last of the old school fighters.”

In the end, it was none of the street fights, stabbings or heavyweight slugfests that brought down the great Ron Lyle. Instead, he was recently and suddenly felled by an untimely stomach ailment. Lyle once said, “When the bell rings you got to be ready, because ready or not, here it comes.” 

Truer words have never been spoken. In boxing, there are no timeouts at the line of scrimmage. In life, Ron Lyle was indeed the dog of his block!

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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Ron Lyle vs. Earnie Shavers Part 2



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George Foreman -vs- Ron Lyle 1/24/76 part 2



George Foreman -vs- Ron Lyle 1/24/76 part 3



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  1. SUNSHINE 11:50am, 02/13/2013

    UR STORY WAS REALLY AMAZING IT MADE US BE AWARE OF ALL THE TRUE CHAMPION IN OUR ERA OF NOSTALGIC CHAMPS WHO DESERVE TO BE RECONIZE IN THIS GTEAT SPORT…....BEAUTIFUL ARTICLE…..

  2. mikecasey 09:10am, 01/03/2012

    Nicely done! Ron was a great favourite of mine.

  3. Pete The Sneak 05:46am, 01/03/2012

    Great read Castle. You captured the essence of Ron Lyle, a true fighter and one of my all time favorites, not so much for his boxing ability but more so for his preseverance, which on a personal level I can kind of relate to. The Foreman/Lyle fight was the Hagler/Hearns of heavyweight fights. Thanks for giving the man some long overdue and well deserved props. Peace and Happy New Year to all…

  4. raxman 04:23am, 01/02/2012

    JC - its very disheartening isnt it? imagine how great we’d think David Haye if he went to the states and fought - and probably beat - arreola, johnson, chambers and maybe some of the euro like povetkin or dimitrenko etc. he wouldn’t even have to mention the klits - and if it were raised he could say “i’m a heavyweight - they’re super heavyweights? - they weigh 30 pound more - an extra 15% of his weight - its like asking a middleweight to fight a big light heavy. Haye - or any of the HW who fought the other top guys could become a superstar of boxing without having a world title - which are all irrelevant anyway - we need The Ring magazine to have the balls to cap their heavyweight class at 230 and make the Klits super heavy champ (Wlad) and #1 (Vitali). i think it would save boxing for the big men because its about to die. most average joes who like boxing only bother with the lighter weights now - for the big boys they watch ufc - its hard to blame them.

  5. pugknowsp 08:05pm, 01/01/2012

    Very nice read and great videos.

  6. mike schmidt 04:46pm, 01/01/2012

    Ron Lyle-January 2010-“My main purpose in life-working with young people at the gym-is still the most satisfying.” the Red Shields Cox-Lyle Center in Denver-making a difference…..

  7. JC45 04:36pm, 01/01/2012

    Great read Castle .They just don’t make guys like Ron Lyle anymore. Spot on points about contenders actually fighting each other Rax . As someone who grew up as a kid watching and basically worshipping these blokes its pretty hard to get enthused about modern fighters who seem to be more about unbeaten records and big pay days than proving to themselves how tough or good they are. Guys like Bonavena , Quarry, Lyle and Shavers would fight anyone, anywhere, anytime. Cheers All.

  8. raxman 03:15pm, 01/01/2012

    just saw the post fight interview ali vs lyle - another cornerman mistake - according to lyle, chicky told him to give him the 11th to just jab.
    as far as the stoppage goes - its all well and good to say you’re fine once you’ve stopped being punched in the head. ali couldn’t miss. lyle was gonna get hurt badly so although it was a quick stoppage for mine it was a righteous one

  9. raxman 01:24pm, 01/01/2012

    its no wonder the HW seen is dead - the promoters have killed it. back in the so called HW golden era its not just that there are great fighters but that they fought each other. it didnt matter that, for example Lyle and Quarry werent champs, or even the #1  contenders - the fact is they were good and evenly matched - we could have exactly the same thing now if say arreola and johnson fought or any other combination of top 15 HW’s but the promoters have killed it by having the top guys only fight bums until they get a shot at a Klit. its no wonder they all choke on that big german stage - none of them have the experience of a big fight and all the nerves and rigmarole that goes with it. shame on king, arum etc. Shame!

  10. raxman 01:19pm, 01/01/2012

    this was a great read and i’m into the you tube links right now. Lyle is one of those enigmatic boxing figures that you feel like you should know more about, should understand and possibly be able to categorize but there is something about him, some point of difference, that makes, for want of a better term, mysterious. i’m looking fwd to watching the links on this one.

  11. TEX HASSLER 11:59am, 01/01/2012

    Mike Schmidt got it right, Denver should pay some kind of a tribute to Ron Lyle. A statue of Ron in the middie of town would be great tribute to Mr. Lyle. Ron fought some tough opposition and even though getting a late start into pro boxing at nearly 30 he became a top contender. His fight with Foreman is an all time classic.

  12. TEX HASSLER 11:39am, 01/01/2012

    I agree with Mike Schmidt that Denver should pay tribute and put up a statue of Lyle in the middle of town. Ron Lyle was a great heavyweight because he got such a late start in pro boxing and went so far as to be a top contender. His fight with Foreman was an all time classic and he fought tough opposition. We pray for his family.

  13. henry 08:43am, 01/01/2012

    He was beating Ali and they stopped the fight for no reason.  I still say it was a fix to keep Ali winning.

  14. MIKE SCHMIDT 04:10pm, 12/31/2011

    “OFF THE ROPES” The Ron Lyle Story by Candace Toft, 2010 it’s paperback and you can get it on Amazon.com

  15. the thresher 02:14pm, 12/31/2011

    Watch Quarry give a clinic on how to parry.

  16. BigMikeTampa 11:28am, 12/31/2011

    Mike Schmidt- what is the name of his book? I would love to read it.

  17. BigMikeTampa 11:26am, 12/31/2011

    This was a really good read about an enigimatic fighter, well done.

  18. "Old Yank" Schneider 07:51am, 12/31/2011

    I enjoyed this a lot!

  19. Bob Mladinich 06:08am, 12/31/2011

    Another great example of boxers being the most approachable and friendly of athletes. Wonderful story.  I hope Castle tracks down more ex-fighters and does such interesting stories on them.

  20. john coiley 02:38am, 12/31/2011

    GREAT STORY on Ron Lyle’s why-and-how battle to be the “big dog.” It is part of why/how I got into boxing. The “original 98-lb weakling,” my father would whoop me big time when I came home as a young teen w/ a bloody nose, etc. because I didn’t fight back “like I showed you,” like how he taught me to fight so to be “Champion of the World like I shoulda been,” were his exact words. When I did fight back, I won. A great confidence builder for all of life’s challenges, in and out of the “square circle.” Oh yeah, it impressed the girls big time, which initially was my greatest intention.  Though maybe Ron’ intentions weren’t quite so hasty. Or maybe they were.

  21. the thresher 07:26pm, 12/30/2011

    A really nice read. Thanks Castle.

  22. MIKE SCHMIDT 06:25pm, 12/30/2011

    A wonderful article—great writing. I met Ron and his lovely wife at the Hall of Fame and had a chance to talk to him—I won’t detail the conversation as it was personal other than to say he had a HUGE heart under that big body of his. The City of Denver should pay tlribute in some meaningfuly lasting way. I would urge any Ron Lyle fans to read his book—thanks for the great story written Castle.

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