In sad and shocking news, it has been reported by ESPN that boxing legend Aaron Pryor has passed away at the age of just 61. No news has yet been confirmed regarding what the cause of death was (Aaron was battling heart disease but this has not yet been confirmed as the cause of his untimely death), but fight fans the world over are certain to be moved by this loss. Pryor, a fabulous talent who engaged in a number of thrilling, unforgettable bouts, is one of the finest and most celebrated fighters to have come out of Cincinnati.
Born in October of 1955, Pryor, an amateur standout who met, amongst other future stars, Thomas Hearns (a win for Pryor) and Howard Davis Junior (a loss) turned pro in late 1976. Knocking out a guy named Larry Smith in his hometown, Pryor was paid the handsome sum of $400. Greatness, and a fair amount of controversy, awaited “The Hawk.”
An aggressive, skilled talent who had great stamina and great punching power, Pryor soon climbed the 140-pound ranks. A title shot came against Colombian legend Antonio Cervantes in 1980 and after just four-rounds, Pryor, aged 24, was the new WBA champion. Nine retentions followed – during which defences Pryor defeated the great Alexis Arguello in one of the most memorable 140-pound title fights in history; Pryor coming on to sensationally, and controversially KO Arguello in the 14th-round – before Pryor won the IBF belt in 1984.
One retention followed, in 1985, before Pryor unfortunately became involved in drugs. Stripped of his title for inactivity in late 1985, Pryor would not box again for well over two years. When he did return, in 1987, he was a mere shadow of his former greatness, being KO’d by Bobby Joe Young; this being the first, and only, loss of Pryor’s pro career.
Despite failing eyesight, Pryor fought on on three further occasions, winning all three fights against limited opposition. Retiring in 1990 with a fine record of 39-1(35), Pryor was inducted into The Hall of Fame in 1996.
Pryor’s rivalry with Arguello – and the infamous “black bottle” episode during the first fight, when his trainer Panama Lewis was heard to ask for this specific bottle between the 13th and 14th rounds of the epic fight; this leading to widespread suspicion that the bottle contained an illegal substance – is legendary. After taking a drink from the most talked about bottle in boxing history, a rampaging, energised Pryor ripped into Arguello, eventually stopping him with a vicious volley of punches.
The two fought again in 1983, with Pryor winning via relatively easy 10th-round KO, but the first fight from 1982, is one of the true classics, despite the controversy.
Pryor, whose son launched a pro career of his own, will be sorely missed.