The fearsome puncher, who had demolished Joe Frazier and Ken Norton, had been humbled by Muhammad Ali. Ali not only out-boxed the champion when they fought in Zaire, but put him down for the count and his aura of invincibility was shattered. George Foreman fought a number of uninspiring fights after Ali; including a farcical 5 man fight which Ali attended and heckled. To regain his reputation, Ron Lyle was put in front of him.
Lyle, a seriously underrepresented HW, was an ex-con with a crazy life story. After a hard prison stint he battled his way to the top of the heavyweight division with wins over Oscar Bonavena, Jimmy Ellis, a KO of Earnie Shavers and a close loss to Ali. This bout with Foreman was highly anticipated with both men doing a lot of talking prior. Lyle ominously asked foreman, “Do you want it the most?”. A chilling line amongst others that made it easy to see why so many remember him as one of the most intimidating fighters of the 20th century.
What followed is one of the all time most action packed heavyweight bust ups we are likely ever to witness.
Spoiler: If you don’t want to know the result of the fight don’t read on just yet, you can watch the full fight on the above video.
First blood came early in round 1 when Foreman made the mistake of dropping his hands after a clinch as Lyle landed a crushing right that had his foe staggering.
Round two saw the former champion Foreman regain composure and work behind the jab to unload big shots on the aggressive Lyle. Lyle was stung by a thumping right cross and backed onto the ropes. Now completely in trouble, Foreman began chopping at Lyle. But bizarrely the timekeeper rang the bell a full minute early, robbing Foreman of a chance to get Lyle out of there.
Round three also belonged to Foreman as Lyle appeared to imitate (unsuccessfully) Ali’s rope-a-dope strategy, giving George ample opportunity to unload with precision. Lyle whizzed a few trademark overhand shots by Foreman’s head.
Round four was utter chaos. Lyle smashed home a cross which flattened Foreman. Once the former champion got up, he saved himself with a wild right that stopped Lyle in his head hunting tracks. Foreman followed up with a hook that put Lyle flat on his back. For a moment it looked like the brawl had been decided, but Lyle bravely beat the count and rushed back. Both power-punchers held their ground and continued to trade bombs, Foreman succumbing to an overhand right creeping behind his cross guard. Big George tasted the canvas again; it looked like it was all over, but Foreman managed to get to his feet just in time.
At round 5, Lyle, a talented swarmer, out boxed Foreman when close. A thudding left on the inside almost put George down yet again. Another left buckled Foreman, but he righted himself and scored with a series of jabs on the defensive. Lyle returned fire with an impressive combination: uppercut, hook and a big right hand. The speed and volume overwhelmed Foreman and it was easy to see why this man was feared by many in the division.
However Foreman refused and through his insidious glare, reached down inside himself and brought out three brutal right hand straight punches of his own from the fire in his belly; sealing Lyles fate. The attack had wrecked Lyle and he was now tired from swarming Foreman. He would endure 20 unanswered blows before collapsing at Foreman’s feet.
Muhammad Ali aside, no one had pushed Foreman to the brink of oblivion like Ron Lyle. What a cracker!