It should have happened. It could have happened. Ken Norton and Ron Lyle, two have the best heavyweights of the ” Glorious 70’s ” era could have created quite a stir if they would have met. By 1973 Ron was an upcoming, undefeated prospect while Norton was already a contender due to his win over clever Henry Clark. In February of 1973 Lyle made his Madison Square Garden debut and was taken to school by veteran tough guy Jerry Quarry. One month later Norton shocked the world when he broke Muhammad Ali’s jaw and scored a well deserved upset decision.
Norton was now a star and a close decision loss to Ali in a rematch established Kenny as a major player. The two bouts with Ali garnered Norton a title shot against George Foreman. This fight was a disaster for Kenny as he was halted in the second round. In the meantime Lyle would fight his back into contention. Only the slick Jimmy Young would sidetrack Ron. In 1975 Lyle would meet new champion Muhammad Ali for the title. Ron did well in a slow, strategic fight but in the eleventh Ali hurt Lyle. The champ opened up and the referee stopped the contest. In 1976 Norton would get his rubber match with Ali with the title on the line at Yankee Stadium. Ali got the verdict but I along with many others thought Norton should have won the crown that night.
In 1977 Norton would be awarded the WBC version of the title with a points win over Jimmy Young. I myself thought the hard luck Young won a close fight. In 1978 Norton would lose the crown in a classic battle to Larry Holmes. Kenny was then crushed in one round by Earnie Shavers. He barely survived to salvage a draw against rough and tumble Scott LeDoux. He did edge Randy ” Tex ” Cobb but then came his scary one round loss to Gerry Cooney.
Ron Lyle would never get another shot at the title. After he lost to Ali he came back to out slug Earnie Shavers in a war. Then Ron would lose in one of the greatest heavyweight fights in history when George Foreman got off the canvas to stop Lyle. Jimmy Young would again out smart Lyle and although Ron remained a contender he was never again a front runner.
Why did this fight not take place ? Good question. One reason I believe is that Norton rose to the top quicker and made a name for himself with his bone breaking win over Ali. From that point on he had star power and he could be a little more selective with his opponents. I don’t feel that Ken feared Lyle but I think he realized he did not have Jake LaMotta’s jaw. Ron Lyle could punch. Why take a chance against a guy like that when Ken always seemed to be in the thick of the heavyweight picture. Lyle needed Norton more then Ken needed him.
Who would have won ? Lyle was a better boxer then given credit for. He could punch and he had a pretty good chin. Norton was a sharp hitter but he was not a devastating puncher. I just believe Ron could have taken Ken’s shots. I don’t believe Norton would have held up under Lyle’s attack. My pick would have been Lyle by knockout.
One other thing. After researching this article I came to remember just how good a fighter Jimmy Young was.
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