On Sunday, boxing lost one of its all-time greatest warriors, when former light welterweight champion Aaron Pryor passed away at age 60. The Hawk was a relentless, all-action fighter and one of the most popular stars of the 1980s.
Pryor fought like a demon, coming forward non-stop, throwing power punches like a whirlwind. In August of 1980, he knocked out long-time champion Antonio Cervantes, to claim the WBA 140-pound title. The win came in the middle of a 26-fight KO streak for Pryor.
Pryor’s name will forever be tied to his biggest rival, Alexis Arguello. They faced off for the first time in November 1982. Known as “The Explosive Thin Man,” Arguello was the greatest fighter ever to emerge from Nicaragua. He was a dominant champion at featherweight, super featherweight and lightweight before moving up to 140 pounds. Against Pryor, he was attempting to become the first four-division world champion in boxing history.
In 1982, Aaron Pryor was in need of another major name to face in the ring. He was never able to make a fight with superstars Roberto Duran or Sugar Ray Leonard. But in Arguello, he finally got the opponent he needed to help establish his status as a legend.
Many fans view Pryor and Arguello’s first fight as the best bout of the entire 1980s. It would fit on any list of the top-10 bouts of all time. Arguello was able to match Pryor’s pace and the two went to war, with momentum changes throughout the fight.
An air of controversy hangs over this fight, as well. Allegations have been made over the years that Pryor’s trainer, Panama Lewis, gave him a specially doctored water bottle following Round 12, following three straight strong rounds for Arguello.
At 1:06 of Round 14, Pryor finally managed to over-power Arguello, stopping him on his feet. As soon as the referee stopped the bout, Arguello collapsed to the canvas. Pryor won the rematch by Round 10 KO in September 1983.
In the mid-1980s, Pryor’s career floundered, due to drug problems. In August 1987, he lost to unheralded Bobby Joe Young, the only loss of his career. In my estimation, Aaron Pryor remains the greatest 140-pound fighter of all time.