And to think, George Foreman was set to fight Pedro Lovell. If this had happened, the world would have been deprived of one of, if not THE greatest, heavyweight slugfests of all time.
It was January of 1976, and former heavyweight king Foreman, still haunted by the demons Muhammad Ali had fired into his brain in Zaire, was on the comeback trail for real. Foreman had boxed THAT exhibition – in Canada, with “Big George” fighting five men in one night. But the January 24th fight with the equally big Ron Lyle was for real. It was serious. It was must-win.
Fighting in Las Vegas, at Caesars Palace, Foreman and Lyle gave the world nothing but a stunning, never to be forgotten barn-burner of a war that was falsely disguised as a boxing match. The mesmerising action has been honoured and paid tribute to many, many times, this by many people. And what else can be written about this magnificent you-hit-me-I’ll-hit-you back and forther?
Not much, but the fight, on its anniversary, just HAS to be paid tribute to all over again. And so it is that this writer gives the epic slugfest yet another round of applause here in 2023, on the occasion of the 47th birthday of the FIGHT.
Foreman, now trained by Gil Clancy, was talked out of taking the much easier but far less statement-inducing fight with Lovell (you may know him as ‘Spider Rico’ in the “Rocky” movies; two of them, anyway). And the 27 year old signed on to fight former jailbird, fellow Ali KO (or TKO) victim, Lyle.
What followed nobody could have predicted.
The two giants left any and all thoughts of blocking or slipping a punch at home, with the two punchers having seemingly telepathically agreed to blast, blast, blast away, and find out who was the tougher, harder man. It was a fight fan’s dream, and a commentator’s. Howard Cosell, usually so refined and eloquent with his expression of opinions, was reduced to a screaming, overly-excited witness to a street fight. Four times the two big men traded knockdowns, the pair launching into unadulterated trading too many times to count. But the punches counted, as did the ability to hold a shot.
Foreman, more driven, more possessed than the older Lyle, got up when he and no right to do so. Foreman also found energy levels and zip he never could muster in Africa. Finally, after a war that put everyone into a dizzied state, something like 20 unanswered punches put Lyle away. Foreman, who delighted in telling everyone how his next robe would broadcast the words ‘Heart of a Lion,’ had shown he was a different animal.
Foreman had dug deeper that most humans will ever be able to even imagine, and he was all set to rule the heavyweight landscape again. It just took him two decades to do so.
Had Foreman and Lyle both retired after their stupendous slugfest/war for the ages, both would still be remembered as well as celebrated all these years later. But Foreman had plenty of leather still in his locker. Lyle too had more rumbles to engage in, even if “Big Ron” never came as close to catching up with “Big George” as he did on this day 47 years ago.
Go ahead and relive the drama of all dramatic heavyweight fights right now courtesy of You Tube. I’ll see you there, fellow fight fan.