"Ali is a good dude, man, and a hell of a fighter. See, people gotta understand, Ali was special. He laid it on the line brother and he stood up for what he believed in. you don't see too many athletes doing that because it's a certain risk you take when you do what Ali did and I don't think people truly understood that. It was a blessing because all of the guys that fought in the Ali era were great athletes. I was a great athlete in several sports. Ali, Foreman, we were all great athletes that could have flourished in another sport, but through the grace of God, man, he brought us together in boxing and we made some of the greatest fights in the history of the sport. Ali just transcended the sport and I don't ever think we could repay him for that. He risked it all my man and that's nothing but love and respect there, you feel me? And Joe Frazier was right behind him," stated former heavyweight title challenger Ron Lyle as he shared his thoughts on Muhammad Ali, the difference between boxing then and now, and much more. Check it out!
PC: I searched high and low for your contact info after watching the "Facing Ali" story. I knew I had to speak with you. How are you Ron?
RL: It's all good my brother.
PC: You said a lot of things on the documentary that stayed with me and one thing was you saying Ali went out on his own terms. You also went out on your own terms because you didn't retire until you were 54 years old. What made you stay around so long?
RL: As fighters, we always want to prove something. Ali wanted to prove something, Foreman and myself, we all had something to prove. You couldn't tell me when to walk away because at a certain point in a fighter's career, you don't want to run anymore, you don't want to hit the bags anymore or spar and that's when you know it's time to hang it up. But I still feel I had something to prove and I was blessed to be able to go that long.
PC: You also had a late start in boxing. You didn't turn pro until you were almost 30 because of the prison sentence.
RL: Yeah, and that had a lot to do with it as well. I did get a late start, but I tell you what my brother, it was a blessing for me to come up in the boxing game at the time I did and fight against some of the guys I fought against. I mean, think about the guys that was in my era man. You feel me? I was blessed brother.
PC: What helped you get through the prison days and become a figurehead in the sport of boxing, because not too many people would have gotten a second chance?
RL: They had this guard there, man, that took me to the boxing ring and I owe him a lot. He was a Christian man and a good man and he looked out for me. If it hadn't been for him, who knows where I would have ended up, but he was a good dude, man, you know what I'm saying? And you rarely find someone like that when you are in the situation I was in.
PC: Now you are on the other side and you train guys. I love watching the fights from your era because you guys had a different mentality and approach to the game. What's the biggest difference you see in some of these guys now?
RL: Well, the sport of boxing has grown from the time when we fought because these guys make a lot more money than I made when I was fighting. So you gotta respect the fact that the sport is growing and I think that's great and I hope it continues to grow. As for the fights, when I was coming up watching guys like Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano, those guys set the standard because they threw a lot of punches. So when my era came around, that's all we knew. These guys today don't throw as many punches and they are setting the standard for fighters 30 years from now, so I don't know if the fights will improve, but the sport has and you could tell by how much they are able to pay these guys now, you feel me?
PC: I talk to a lot of fighters and they don't really watch boxing like that anymore. Are you a fan of boxing? Do you still watch it often?
RL: Man, I have a satellite and anytime boxing is on, I'm watching it man. Boxing saved me, my brother, so I am boxing! I owe that to boxing. If it's tuning in to watch a fight or teaching these kids what I know about the game and passing my knowledge on, God blessed me, my brother, to find this sport and it saved me, so I always watch boxing whenever it is on.
PC: I was shocked to see Buster Douglas say he never crossed paths with Mike Tyson again after they fought. Did you ever run across Muhammad Ali after your fight with him; have you spoke to him at all?
RL: Yeah, I spoke to him and I used to see him. I remember when I lived in Vegas and was training guys out there. They had a birthday party for him and I spoke to him then. Ali is a good dude, man, and a hell of a fighter. See, people gotta understand, Ali was special. He laid it on the line brother and he stood up for what he believed in. you don't see too many athletes doing that because it's a certain risk you take when you do what Ali did and I don't think people truly understood that. It was a blessing because all of the guys that fought in the Ali era were great athletes. I was a great athlete in several sports. Ali, Foreman, we were all great athletes that could have flourished in another sport, but through the grace of God, man, he brought us together in boxing and we made some of the greatest fights in the history of the sport. Ali just transcended the sport and I don't ever think we could repay him for that. He risked it all my man and that's nothing but love and respect there, you feel me? And Joe Frazier was right behind him.
PC: I speak to Murad Muhammad often and he told me to make sure that I asked how you were doing for him and wished you well.
RL: That name sounds familiar.
PC: He was in Ali's security team and then later became a promoter.
RL: Hey man, I know exactly who you are talking about; that's the man that helped me out when I was going through my case Murad Muhammad tell him I'm doing good man and to give me a call. He's a good dude brother. He helped me out and never turned his back on me man. I got a lot of love for that brother man.
PC: I will be sure to relate the message my man. Mr. Lyle, it was an honor to speak to you man. I really enjoyed your time in the Facing Ali documentary. You definitely kept it real. I look forward to speaking to you on a regular basis so save my number. Is there anything you want to say in closing?
RL: I just want to thank God for the chance he gave me. He gave me great parents and they did all they could for me while they were around. I also have to thank Denver, Colorado man because again, they gave me a second chance and now I'm able to do what I love to do. I'm still a fighter, it's just now I'm teaching it instead of physically doing it and it's all been a blessing. Thank you my brother and one love to you man.
[ Follow Percy Crawford on Twitter @MrLouis1ana ]