by Neil Zender, Co-Producer
Watch the fight – and find out what happened when Lyle Alzado went Pat Benatar on Muhammad Ali – on “Lyle Alzado: A Football Life”, Friday night at 9:00PM /EST on NFL Network.
A lot of crazy things happened in the 1970’s. Watergate. Disco. Leisure Suits. Roger Moore as 007. But perhaps the craziest part of “The Me Decade” was Lyle Alzado fighting Muhammad Ali.
It wasn’t Batman versus Superman but it was close. Who would win a fight – the toughest football player in the world or the greatest fighter in the world? It sounds like a plot Sly Stallone might dream up for another Rocky sequel. It would be like J.J. Watt challenging Floyd Mayweather to a rumble and in the 1970’s it actually happened – thanks to Three Mile Lyle.
In 1979, the Broncos All-Pro defensive end challenged Muhammad Ali to a fight, which the Denver Post’s Terry Frei recaps brilliantly in 77: Denver, The Broncos, and a Coming of Age. Before being drafted by the Broncos in the 4th Round of the 1971 Draft, Alzado had been involved in numerous street fights and was an accomplished amateur boxer. In forty-five fights his only loss was a close decision to Ron Stander who later fought Smokin’ Joe Frazier for the Heavyweight Championship of the World.
Ali had always been Alzado’s idol and when Three Mile Lyle met him at a charity event he decided the best way to honor his hero was by fighting him. A contract dispute with the Broncos made the bizarre enterprise seem like destiny. What better way to show the Denver brass that he had leverage – a future as a professional fighter – than by fighting the Heavyweight Champ? Alzado even personally backed the fight with his own assets as collateral. And so on July 14, 1979, Lyle Alzado and Muhammad Ali want toe-to-toe in a boxing ring at Mile High Stadium in Denver.