R.I.P. Ron Lyle (February 12, 1941 – November 26, 2011)
Ron Lyle, heavy-weight boxing champion, pool/billiard enthusiast, brother, father, friend, and all-around compassionate, genuine human being, passed away on Saturday, November 26, 2011. The Denver pool community certainly lost an icon and kindred spirit with his passing. According to family members, the Denver native was admitted to the hospital and died a week later when a stomach abscess became septic. He was one of 19 children raised in a modest, spiritual household.
At 70 years old, though no longer boxing, Ron was still charming the ladies and winning his share of pool games. His towering stature and convincing handshake could seem a bit threatening if it wasn’t always followed up with his warm, humble smile that instantly welcomed any stranger. The gentle giant began boxing while serving a prison sentence in his 20’s. He turned pro in 1972 and won his first 19 professional matches, all with KO’s except for two. Ron retired in 1980 with a career record of 43-7-1, with 31 KO’s.
Despite Ron’s dubious past, you would have a hard time finding anyone with a negative word to say about him. Ron co-founded the Salvation Army’s Cox/Lyle Red Shield Boxing Program. The program was created as a memorial to Greg Cox who was tragically killed in a car accident at 19. Greg adored Ron and even went to Madison Square Garden to see him fight. It was then that he learned a valuable lesson not only in boxing but in life.
After the fight, Ron said to Greg, “I didn’t take this guy serious enough.” He went on to explain that you never get more out of life than you put into it. Those words pushed Greg to graduate with honors at Fairview H.S. in Boulder before his death. In 2003, the Cox family co-founded the program with Ron starting with six kids. Today, it’s grown to 161 kids with three national champions.
The values Ron instilled in Greg are only a few of the many lessons that are taught each day through the Cox/Lyle Boxing Program. The organization educates kids on important skills from preparing for college, drug prevention and health/nutrition, to conflict resolution and employability training. “He was a giant but a gentle giant. He was here every day. He loved the community. He loved the kids and the kids loved him,” said Captain Ron McKinney, associate city coordinator at the Salvation Army Denver Red Shield.
To learn more about the fascinating life of Ron Lyle, check out his biography “Off the Ropes: The Ron Lyle Story” by Candace Toft, published in May of 2010. “I have never taken such pleasure in writing a book as I did working with Ron. He is a man of courage and dignity both inside and outside the ring and his many kindnesses will not be forgotten,” said Candace when hearing of Ron’s death.
In the more recent months, Ron made Felt Billiards in Englewood his watering hole. He would come in everyday and sit for hours just watching the players and learning about the game. He was always friendly and approachable. “I had the pleasure of getting to know Ron during his many visits to Felt. Ron was a class act, always humble and kind to staff and customers alike. He will be deeply missed at Felt,” commented Joseph Stewart, owner of Felt Billiards.
A Memorial Pool Tournament in Ron’s honor is scheduled at Felt on Saturday, February 25 to raise money for the Cox/Lyle non-profit boxing program. For more information on the upcoming memorial tournament or other fundraising efforts in honor of Ron Lyle, visit: feltbar.com/ronlyle.
Ron Lyle’s Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, December 3, 2011 at the Denver Red Shield, 2915 High Street. Call (303) 295-2107 for more information. Services will begin at 11a.m. and will be open to the public. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made in Ron’s memory to the Cox/Lyle Boxing Program. Visit coxlyleboxing.org to make a donation.