Flying High: The Aaron Pryor Story
26.05.06 - By Ryan "Asian Sensation" Songalia: Aaron "The Hawk" Pryor is one of the more interesting fighters of the last quarter of the 20th century. Universally considered one of the top three junior welterweight champions of all time, the story of his life outside the ring was almost as turbulent as his life in the ring.
Article posted on 26.05.2006
His pure animalistic demeanor in the ring allowed you a peek into the heart of a man on the edge. Having his crew follow him around screaming "Hawk Time", Pryor was a very intimidating force. He was hungrier than any other fighter I have ever seen on film or in person. He was as raw a beast as they come, a man who truly didn't give a damn about anything. He would come forward for every second of every round tossing punches, each one intended to end the fight early. Growing up in abject poverty in Cincinnati, Ohio, Pryor had to endure adversity for the majority of his young life.
Having to cope without proper guidance and adult supervision, it appeared his life was headed in the direction of being engulfed by the street life that surrounded him.
Seeking healthy activities, he picked up the sport of boxing. In a short period of time, Pryor was surprised by his proficiency in the sweet science. After dominating Tommy Hearns in the 1975 National Golden Gloves, Pryor was thought by most boxing pundits to be America's top amateur and a sure shot gold medalist. However, he failed to make the 1976 Olympics Boxing team when he was upset by the eventual gold medalist Howard Davis in a qualifying match.
Without the major contract that goes along with being an Olympian, he tore through the professional ranks en route to a 24-0 record. Then in 1980, he got his first title shot against Columbian legend Antonio "Kid" Cervantes. Cervantes, who had four times the amount of fights as the challenger, had built an early lead on the scorecards after dropping Pryor. Pryor turned the fight around in the fourth, ending the fight with one lightning right hand and winning the WBA junior welterweight title.
Finding it hard to secure bouts with big name fighters like Leonard and Mancini, he kept busy with mandatories while racking up five successful title defenses. Then, in 1982, Pryor signed to face former three division champion Alexis "El Flaco Explosivo" in the biggest fight of his career.
In the fight of the decade, both fighters fought like the champions they were. Fighting in front of a partisan crowd in Miami, Arguello was installed a 2-1 favorite to win the title. Pryor, having waited his entire life for the opportunity to prove himself to the world, set a very intense pace in the early rounds. Pryor swarmed the Nicaraguan legend with punches while Arguello valiantly returned fire. Fighting the fight of his life, Arguello turned the tables in the middle rounds and began to become very accurate with his storied right hand.
Feeling the momentum slipping away, Pryor began to settle down, resorting back to using boxing technique to become more accurate with his own blows. Bending down to keep Arguello off balance, Pryor started to become very effective throwing punches from unconventional angles. Having recaptured functional control of the fight, Pryor started to come on very strong in the later rounds of the fight. Then in the fourteenth round, Arguello could no longer stand up to the accumulation of punishment, being stopped brutally against the ropes after absorbing a volley of vicious, unanswered blows from the Cincinatti warrior.
However, after the fight, there was controversy about interactions between Pryor and his trainer Al "Panama" Lewis. Two times during the bout, Lewis commanded Pryor to drink from a black bottle that many believe contained a performance enhancing substance. Compounded by the newly instated Florida State Boxing Commission's failure to administer a post fight urine test, the public demanded that they meet again. In an attempt to quell the criticism and add credibility to his initial victory, the 2 fighters signed to face each other again 10 months later in a rematch of their epic bout.
Arguello fought bravely until the tenth round, when Pryor's constant assault and pressure broke Arguello's will. After going down voluntarily to escape further punishment, he remained on the seat of his pants until the count of ten. In the post fight press conference, Arguello revealed that he stayed down to prevent serious injury.
On the top of the boxing world, Pryor flirted with mega fights against some of the sport's brightest stars. However, Pryor failed to capitalize on his success and secure another major fight. After relinquishing the WBA title in favor of the upstart IBF, the party life he lived outside of the ring began to take it's toll on Pryor's career. Fighting infrequently against non descript opposition, Pryor lost to Bobby Joe Young by seventh round TKO with his better days clearly behind him. Aaron Pryor retired in 1990 with a final record of 39-1 (35 KO).
It was later revealed that Pryor had been fighting with a malignant eye injury and retired from the ring. Years on the party circuit had transformed him from a top notch fighter into a crack cocaine addict with regular run ins with the law. Forced with the ultimatum to turn his life around or die a premature death, Pryor cleaned up became a pastor in his hometown of Cincinnati.
Today, the closest comparison to Pryor can be seen in Filipino national treasure Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao, who had experienced similar disadvantageous circumstances growing up in the ghettos of the Filipino island of Mindinao, displays similar intensity in the ring and an unbreakable will. His whirlwind offensive attack and hit and get hit strategy make him the type of force of nature that hasn't been seen since "The Hawk" hung up the gloves a decade and a half ago.
With his illustrious career behind him, "The Hawk" still maintains his religious responsibilities with his church. In 1996, he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Aaron Pryor's against the odds success story is one of boxing's greatest legends, one that belongs in the pantheon of boxing lore.
Aaron Pryor still maintains a strong bond with his fans. He has an official website that fans can go to and learn more about The Hawk. The web address is http://www.hawktime.com.
Ryan Songalia is a syndicated columnist. If you have any feedback, his e-mail address is [email protected] - He is a proud member of Team Pinoy.
previous article: Edouard vs Toribio: May 27 Card Close To Final
next article: Antonio Tarver Conference Call Transcript
Boxing Forum | Boxing | Bet On This Fight | Back To Top