By James Slater: As fans know, heavyweight legend Ron Lyle passed away yesterday, at the age of 70. Back in the day, Lyle fought the very best – including Ali, Foreman and Shavers. Earlier today I had the opportunity to speak with Shavers – who lost a 1975 slugfest with Lyle, by way of 6th-round TKO – and Earnie paid tribute to his rival/friend.
Here is what Shavers had to say about his fight with Lyle:
James Slater: First of all, Earnie, sorry to bother you on a Sunday, I know you are a religious man. But I take it you’ve heard about the sad death of Ron Lyle, who you had that great, great fight with in September of 1975?
Earnie Shavers: Yes, I heard. His sister called me and told me – I don’t go anywhere near the internet (laughs) – we were very good friends. I used to call him, he used to call me. I last spoke to him about two weeks ago. He was a very good man, it’s sad news that he has died.
J.S: Your fight with Lyle was an epic. I know you don’t want to say anything bad about the man, but you knocked him down in the 2nd-round – was he given a long count?
E.S: It was a long count, yeah. We all know that – it’s part of the game. I fought Ron in his hometown of Denver. The altitude was high in Denver, and I never allowed myself enough time to get acclimatised. If I had, the fight would have been a different story.
J.S: You, as one of the hardest punchers ever, when you put him down in the 2nd; did you think you had the fight won?
E.S: Oh yeah! I thought I had that fight won. But it takes two to have a fight, and he got up
and he knocked me out (in the 6th-round). But that was a great fight, and he was a great man.
J.S: After that fight, he fought George Foreman in another awesome fight, and you won five in a row and then fought Ali for the title. I know you always wanted to fight Foreman, though.
E.S: Oh, I wanted to fight Foreman! But he didn’t want to fight me. Archie Moore trained us both, and he told Foreman not to fight a puncher like me. It was a smart move and I’d have done the same thing if I was in his position.
J.S: Was the win Lyle scored over you Ron’s best-ever win?
E.S: Yeah, that was his biggest win. Lyle shook my hand after that fight. Like I say, he was always a good friend of mine.
J.S: We will never see heavyweight action like that again!
E.S: I agree. But it’s not the fighters of today’s fault. We had better trainers back then, and we had better competition. It’s not the fighters of today’s fault. It was just a different game back in Ron’s and my day. Lyle, myself and Foreman are the three hardest [heavyweight] punchers of all time!
J.S: The fans still love you and talk about you, Earnie. When are you back in the U.K?
E.S: I’ll be over there in March, on a speaking tour. I look forward to meeting all you guys! I’m sad about Ron’s death, he was a great fighter and a great friend.