This article provides some color about Ron Lyle, the legendary Denver heavyweight, whose biography, Off The Ropes: The Ron Lyle Story, is now available from Hamilcar Publications.  This book is a revised edition, with a new foreword by Showtime boxing analyst and International Boxing Hall of Fame member, Al Bernstein.


“If I have been decent to people, it was because of my mother’s lesson in life—she called it ‘Love of Heart.’ She taught me to understand people of all colors and not let the negative rub off on me. She told me we were all in the same boat and that I needed to grab a paddle and help, not let the boat sink.

I am still paddling for all I ’m worth.”—Ron Lyle, Off The Ropes: The Ron Lyle Story


Who Was Ron Lyle?

Ron Lyle was an American heavyweight boxer from Denver, Colorado. Ron was born in Dayton, Ohio, the son of Nellie and William Lyle, He was one of nineteen children. His parents moved the family to Denver in 1954. Ron grew up in the projects on the northeast side of the city.

What Was Ron Lyle’s Boxing Record?

Ron’s professional boxing record was 43-7-1, with thirty-one wins by knockout.

What Were Ron Lyle’s Biggest Fights?

Ron was a powerful heavyweight known for his aggressive style in the ring. Some of his key fights are listed below, with video highlights from YouTube.

Ron Lyle vs George Foreman, January 24, 1976

The fourth round of Lyle-Foreman is one of the most talked-about in boxing history.

Ron Lyle vs Muhammad Ali, May 16, 1975

Ron outpointed Ali for 10 rounds before losing by TKO in the 11th round.

Ron Lyle vs Earnie Shavers, September 13, 1975

Lyle knocked out “The Black Destroyer” brutally in the sixth round. His greatest win.

Where Did Ron Lyle Learn To Box?

Ron learned to box while he was serving seven-and-a-half years of a fifteen to twenty-five-year sentence in prison at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City.

Did Ron Lyle Really Murder Two People?

Ron’s first stint in prison was for second-degree murder. In interviews later in life, he admitted that he didn’t kill anyone and was covering for someone else.

Ron did kill a former assistant trainer and friend, Vernon “Rip” Clark when Clark visited Ron at his home in Colorado. Lyle said they were arguing about money and the shooting was accidental.

Why Did Ron Lyle Go To Jail?

Lyle spent time in Colorado State Penitentiary for second-degree murder. He said he was being attacked with a lead pipe during a gang fight and reacted in self-defense. As mentioned above, Lyle later admitted he was covering for someone else and didn’t kill anyone.

Did Ron Lyle Really Survive on One Bowl of Spinach a Day In Prison?

During an interview for the documentary Facing Ali, Ron does say that he was given one bowl of spinach a day to eat. But this was a temporary punishment doled out as he spent time in solitary confinement. It is impressive, however, that he had the fortitude to withstand this and still come out of solitary to resume an impressive amateur prison boxing career.

What Were Ron Lyle’s Workouts Like?

Ron revealed in interviews that he could do one thousand pushups in one hour. This was just one part of an intense regimen that helped him become one of the most powerful heavyweights of all time.

How Did Ron Lyle Die?

Ron died from complications from a sudden stomach ailment on November 26, 2011 at the age of seventy.

Did Ron Lyle Have Any Children?

Ron had three children Monte, Tracy, and David Bowens. Each of his children were born from separate mothers. His son David Bowens played in the NFL for 12 years.  Each of the children had very different experiences with their father, ranging from Tracy being incredibly close during childhood, to Monte only really meeting Ron when he was 25 (Ron had not seen Monte since he was 4 years old), to David never meeting his father.

Who Was Ron Lyle’s Wife?

Married Nadine Spencer in 1971. Divorced Nadine in 1975.  He also had a relationship with Patty, the mother of his daughter Tracy.

What Was Ron Lyle’s Net Worth?

While there’s no indication of Lyle’s net worth when he passed away, we do know he was working as a security guard in 2002 so he wasn’t rich. There is no central place to look up all boxing purses (that we know of), so it would be a herculean feat to dig up all of Lyl”s earnings. For his fight against Gerry Quarry in 1973, Lyle earned $15,000 plus an option for 20% of the gate.  The gate was $180,000, earning Lyle an additional $36,000.  In today’s dollars, Lyle’s earning of $51,000 for that fight equals $286,649, which makes for a nice living, but relatively small compared to some of today’s heavyweight purses.  However, while there is no data available for Lyle’s purse for fighting Ali in 1975, we do know that Ali’s next opponent, Joe Bugner, earned $500,000, which would be $2.3 million.  If Lyle earned close to that, then he definitely made some money.

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