If you love boxing and made it a point to attend fights in Mississippi, then you know the name Billy Lyons. Between 1992 and 2004, the military veteran was chairman of the Mississippi Athletic Commission.
In that role, Lyons and his fellow commissioners sanctioned and enforced the state’s boxing regulations. When the casinos brought boxing to their resorts, it was Lyons who certified the bouts and helped promote the events.
One of Lyons’ nephews was former Major League Baseball catcher Barry Lyons.
“He worked hard. He loved the Coast,” Barry said about his uncle.
It was his passion about sports and Coast tourism that Barry hopes people remember about his beloved relative.
“He did a lot of good things in his lifetime,” Barry said.
Along the way, Lyons got into his own sparring sessions. Back in 1993, boxer Roy Jones, Jr. accused Lyons of making racist remarks and vowed to never fight in Mississippi again. After hearing the accusations made by the boxer’s agent, Lyons told the New York Times, “It's an unadulterated lie that I said anything like Stan Levin claims. I've never thought of myself as a racist."
Jones later returned to the ring in Mississippi.
In fact, five years later, the head of the Mississippi State Athletic Commission got into a verbal confrontation with another boxer and the media. According to an article on the Black Athlete Sports Network website, that spat also centered around Jones.
It was 1998. Roy Jones, Jr. had a fight scheduled against Virgil Hill. When a New Orleans reporter questioned who would be judging the fight and whether Jones, a Pensacola native, would have an unfair advantage, the article said Lyons fought back.
“I resent that question,” Lyons was quoted saying. “It impugns the integrity of our officials here in the great State of Mississippi. I want you to know, we have the finest officials here. We have the finest referees, the finest judges.”
Lyons died Saturday in Owensboro, KY. His funeral is Thursday at Nativity BVM in Biloxi. Visitation begins at 9 a.m. The funeral service starts at 11 a.m.