Ron Lyle – Denver’s Ron Lyle, the son of a preacher father and missionary mother who brawled with the best during a golden age of boxing heavyweights, died Saturday morning. He was 70.
With Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier and others, Lyle was part of a string of boxers who dominated the sport in the 1970s. They faced off in a series of classic fights, back when boxing was broadcast on radio and network television.
“Ron was a good-hearted guy. But he could fight like hell,” said Earnie Shavers, a hard-hitting fellow heavyweight who fought Lyle in 1975. “He was tough. He could take a good punch.”
Lyle entered a Denver hospital Nov. 18 with stomach pains and died eight days later after a stomach abscess became septic,
said Sharon Dempsey, his sister.The former contender is on the short list of the greatest boxers in Colorado history, along with “Manassa Mauler” Jack Dempsey and Denver’s Sonny Liston.
Lyle’s tenure in the ring, though, started later in life — and was part of a decades-long shot at redemption.
One of 19 brothers and sisters, Lyle grew up in a strict God-fearing family in northeast Denver. But at 19, after dropping out of Manual High School, Lyle was convicted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of 21-year-old gang rival Douglas Byrd. Lyle argued he was being attacked with a lead pipe and was not the one who pulled the trigger.
“We were all in it together. I was involved,” Lyle told The Denver Post, saying he could have received a softer sentence if he had revealed the killer. “But where do you live after that?”
He served 7 1/2 years in a CaÃ±on City prison and nearly died on the operating table after being stabbed by an inmate.
A standout basketball player as a teen, Lyle learned to box in prison, where Denver cable-TV magnate Bill Daniels noticed his standout talent. Daniels asked Gov. John Love to pardon Lyle, then took Lyle under his wing on a city boxing team.
After winning a national amateur title, Lyle turned professional at 29 — a late start for prize fighters. But he won his debut bout at the Auditorium Arena in Denver in 1971.