Based in the Red Shield Corps’ Salvation Army building, the Cox/Lyle Boxing Center is a vital hub serving the local community, all with the name of an all-action heavyweight proudly attached.
Ron Lyle is undoubtedly Denver’s most famous boxing luminary. Born in Dayton, Ohio, Lyle’s father moved the large family to Denver for work reasons and in to a neighborhood that quickly sucked Lyle in to gang life and a dangerous path into violence. After a particularly vicious incident that led to the death of a rival gang member and an inevitable incarceration, Lyle found himself in the midst of a lengthy prison sentence for second-degree murder.
No doubt this shaped his personality, his career and his innate ability to help troubled youths after his boxing career ended, as he served time in the precarious Colorado State Penitentiary and soon started boxing. It was a decision that turned Ron’s life around.
The city of Denver in fact has a proud history of producing solid professional fighters with Mike Alvarado still making noise on the world scene and the likes of Stevie Johnston and John David Jackson (former trainer of Sergey Kovalev) hailing from the city. Ex-world title contender and one-time Floyd Mayweather Jr opponent Victor Ortiz spent a time boxing out of the city when training under the tutorship of Lyle.
After his release from prison, Lyle continued his association with the noble art and boxed as an amateur before turning professional in 1971 at the ripe old age of 30. Heavyweights generally mature later, however, so it didn’t take Lyle long to establish his hard-hitting, crowd-pleasing style and after five years of mostly success, a crack at the “Greatest of All Time” Muhammad Ali in Las Vegas, 1975 was presented to the Denver destroyer. Refusing to fall for the infamous rope-a-dope tactics that Ali had confused George Foreman with, Lyle used his jab to pick away at the champion and perform extremely well before being stopped in the 11th round of a brave effort.
In his return fight after losing to Ali, Lyle knocked out huge punching Earnie Shavers before finding himself in against another brutal finisher in the shape of aforementioned Texan George Foreman. Lyle and Foreman served up a fight that was named as the 1976 Ring Magazine Fight of the Year and since revered as one of the greatest heavyweight scraps of any era. The Foreman fight was legendary, as both men ripped into each other non-stop before Foreman finally put his man to rest in the fifth round.
After retiring from the ring in 1995, with 51 bouts and 43 wins on the record, Lyle took to the streets to help mentor and guide the youth of his city in an attempt to turn them away from the murky road that had shaped his early life. Establishing himself in the Salvation Army gym, giving back all of the knowledge and experience he had garnered from a fulfilled life, Lyle passed away in 2011 aged 70 from complications after stomach surgery.
Aside from the remarkable Lyle, another resident of the Cox/Lyle gym is Tiolano ‘Tito’ Tovar who worked the scene in the 1990s and became a win some, lose some kind of fighter around the lightweight scene. Tovar never beat a “name” fighter and ended with nearly as many losses as the 20 wins on his record when he finally hung up the gloves in 2007. The Denver native was a proud scrapper though and lost to Juan Lazcano and Arturo Gatti during his 17-year career. Tito now works as boxing co-ordinator at the Red Shield gym and counts the late Lyle as a key influence in his life and boxing career.
Today the gym is still a vibrant hive of activity. One highly commendable program they run is designed at helping Parkinson’s sufferers learn to box to keep them mobile, agile and maintain and build muscle strength. Website literature emphasizes not only the importance of physical exercise, through the medium of boxing for any gym members, but it also speaks of the need to stimulate the mind and maintain mental strength. Keeping fit both in body and mind is an important component of boxing training and whenever Ron Lyle was alive he would use his years of experience, both in and out of the ring, to counsel and mentor youngsters, in a safe environment.
Drop-in sessions, veteran boxing classes and youth sessions are all catered for, with nutritional plans and low, single payment registration fees for young hopefuls to learn and grow in an encouraging environment. Ron Lyle’s legacy lives on.