Gil Clancy On The Epic Foreman-Lyle War: “Round Four Could Have Been The Greatest Round In The History Of Boxing”

Could the epic slugfest between rampaging heavyweights George Foreman and Ron Lyle have been THE greatest heavyweight battle ever? Might that astonishing, we-never-get-tired-of-watching-it fourth round have been THE greatest heavyweight round ever?

Today marks the 46th anniversary of the fight that took place in Las Vegas, and plenty of fight fans (this one included) feel it is a necessary tradition to watch this five round beauty every year on the day of its birthday.

Those five rounds are savage, they are crammed with power punching, they are simply stunning. All these years later, and those five rounds of violence have more than retained the ability to send shivers down the spine.

Foreman as we know was decked twice, before rallying to punch out an exhausted Lyle in the fifth round – with a 17-punch salvo, no less. Foreman’s trainer back then was the great Gil Clancy.

Brought in by Foreman after the shocking loss to Muhammad Ali in October of 1974, Clancy had a hard time of things working with Foreman; getting “Big George” to listen to him being the toughest obstacle.

But with Clancy’s help, Foreman dug deeper than he ever had (or perhaps ever would) and he got the win that gave him redemption and a new sense of achievement.

Famously, Foreman – who admits he made every excuse he could make after the loss to Ali – told himself when he was on the canvas in the Lyle war how he was quite literally willing to die.

George didn’t die, he didn’t lose – instead, he proved, to himself most importantly, that he was a great fighter.

Clancy sadly passed away in March of 2011, yet his recollections of the Foreman-Lyle battle royal were captured by ESPN Classic. And some fascinating stuff Gil really did give viewers when speaking about the January 24, 1976 classic.

YouTube video

“That could have been the greatest round in the history of boxing,” Clancy said when asked about that unmatched fourth round. “But another thing people don’t realize; in one of the rounds of that fight (the second round), the timekeeper got excited, I guess, and cut the round short.

George was really getting the best of it when he cut the round short. I think, if Foreman would have lost that fight, he would’ve made a couple of million dollars suing The Nevada Athletic Commission.

“I tell you, I really got scared to death (during that fourth round). Whoever was gonna hit who was maybe gonna score a knockout, and right at the end of the round, we had to pick George up off his face and bring him back to the corner and revive him.

We had to get him lucid, so he could look at you and we could tell him what to do, and he went out and he did it in the next round. But during the fourth round, I was just watching the action and hoping that George would survive so I could get him back to the corner.

[When I got him back in the corner] I told him, ‘George, do you want this fight more than he wants it, or does he want it more than you want it?’ And he went out and he won it.”

That Foreman did, and all these years later George ranks the Lyle victory as the one that means the most to him aside from his title-winning fight with Joe Frazier. The Foreman-Lyle fight means a whole lot to us fight fans, too. Now, let’s get the fight up courtesy of YouTube!