On this day… January 24… Foreman-Lyle slug it out in historic war

1976 – It was one of boxing’s greatest slugfests. Heavyweight juggernauts George Foreman and Ron Lyle battled through five rounds, trading exceptional bombs in a classic war.

Former (and future) champion Foreman was a 5-1 favourite but Lyle had an upset on his mind when they engaged at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in the 1976 Fight of the Year, and plenty felt that if Lyle could make it through five rounds, Foreman would wilt in the final half and Lyle could take over. 

Lyle had spent seven-and-a-half years in jail and learned to fight in Colorado State Prison. He smashed former Olympic gold medallist Foreman with a huge right in Round One and put a real dent in Big George, so much so that Foreman had to hold on.

Ken Norton and Howard Cossell were on commentary duties for ABC and Cossell screeched: “He’s got him in trouble,” as Lyle went on the attack.

Lyle was on the front foot, and Foreman was having to fight hard and throw bombs to keep Lyle away. Then George connected. “Now Lyle is hurt, now Lyle is hurt,” yelled a euphoric Cossell. Lyle endured some shaky moments on the ropes, Foreman was trying to tee off, but the action was 60 seconds short because the bell went and they had only fought for two minutes. 

The third round was similar. Lyle was finding a home for his right hand over Foreman’s passive jab and Foreman was clubbed to the deck by a right and a left. He rose uncertainly but quickly, and moments later he was throwing heavy, wide hooks and landing them as Lyle slowed. It was extraordinary. And just like that it turned, this time Lyle was walloped to the canvas by a right hand and Lyle was in dire straits. Foreman poured the pressure on but with 10 seconds left, Foreman was again hammered to the canvas where he was struggling to stand when the bell sounded to end a wild fourth round. 

Foreman staggered like a drunk back to his corner. And he was taking a beating early in the fifth, withstanding some huge bombs. Both were becoming exhausted, they lashed away at each other with straight rights, left-rights. It was phenomenal stuff. “What an incredible fight,” yelled Cossell, for all he was worth.

With Lyle pinned in a corner and Foreman hurling both fists, there were cries of, “Stop it, stop it” in the crowd and as a spent Lyle’s hands started to lower he dropped face first onto the canvas where he was counted out.

It was an epic heavyweight fight, and Foreman had never had to dig so deep. He said he was rusty but gave Lyle credit for taking and giving hard punches. 

Foreman made quarter of a million dollars; Lyle was paid $140,000.

Also on this day… in 2009

We should remember this as one of Shane Mosley’s many great nights, but it was what happened before the fight that means many will recall what happened in the Staples Center in LA. 

Feared Antonio Margarito was a significant favourite, but before the fight Mosley’s coach, Nasim Richardson, found irregularities with Margarito’s gloves. One doctor claimed a plaster-like substance was found in the Mexican’s wraps. Margarito’s hands were rewrapped and Margarito was subsequently schooled, bullied and stopped by a brilliant Mosely, who defeated him in nine rounds.