Home Boxing History Hawk Time – The Aaron Pryor Story

Hawk Time – The Aaron Pryor Story

After 13 rounds of ferocious, non-stop punching, Aaron Pryor returns to his corner knowing that he need only survive a further 6 minutes worth of dynamite right hands from Alexis “El Flaco Explosivo” Arguello to retain his WBA Light-Welterweight title. Seeing his charge breathing heavily on his stool, Pryor’s trainer, Panama Lewis instructs one of his assistants to “Give me the other bottle, the one I mixed”. Following the minute break, Pryor charges out of the corner in his familiar style and immediately bounces yet another left-right combination off the skull of Arguello. Moments later, a rejuvenated Pryor lands a devastating left hook followed up by a stinging right hand that backs The Explosive Thin Man onto the ropes. Sensing Arguello’s vulnerability, Pryor immediately follows up firing non-stop left’s and rights at his opponent until referee Stanley Christodoulou steps in to halt the barrage. The Hawk had done what few thought was possible and retained his title in front of a vociferous crowd in Miami’s Orange Bowl.

The backdrop to the fight was intriguing. Going into the fight, Pryor had an impressive and intimidating record of 31-0 with 29 stoppages. However, despite wresting his title from Colombian legend Antonio Cervantes and making six defences of the title against solid opposition, Pryor felt he had not received the recognition he deserved. His opponent on the other hand was one of the most highly regarded fighters of the day. Nicaraguan puncher Alexis Arguello had already wreaked havoc on his way to challenging for the Light-Welterweight Title having already held titles at Featherweight and Super-Featherweight prior to being the incumbent WBC Lightweight Champion having defeated Jim Watt in London the previous summer. Arguello was installed as a heavy betting favourite. Victory in front of his adopted hometown supporters on 12th November 1982 in Miami would enshrine Arguello in the annuls of boxing history for becoming the sports first four weight world champion. Unfortunately, for Arguello, the fight concluded with him lying helplessly on the mat being tended to. Whilst the win that should have propelled Pryor into the boxing elite was shrouded in the suspicion that the contents of the black bottle that Lewis had “mixed” contained a substance that revitalized The Hawk, giving him a boost which allowed him to pummel Arguello into a state of prostrate helplessness. The question marks were compounded due to the Florida State Boxing Commission failing to conduct a post-fight urine test on the victor.

Given the controversy surrounding the fight, Pryor knew the only way to secure his credibility was to grant Arguello a rematch. Arguello rebuilt his confidence with wins over Vilomar Fernandez and Claude Noel whilst Pryor ticked over destroying Sang Hyun Kim before the bell for the end of the third round sounded. The highly anticipated return was set for 9th September 1983 at the storied Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. By the time of the second meeting, Panama Lewis had been disgraced as a result of tampering with Luis Resto’s gloves in a fight against Billy Collins which resulted in both a life ban from boxing as well as imprisonment for Lewis. As a result, Pryor replaced the controversial Lewis with the respected Kronk supremo Emmanuel Stewart. Meanwhile in the build-up to the event Alexis had stated that win, lose or draw, this would be the final time he laced up the gloves professionally.

The second meeting of the pair started at a similar blistering pace as the first fight had with both fighters trading vicious punches until Arguello walked on to a left followed by a straight right from Pryor that dropped him to the seat of his pants. The bout reignited in the second session when Pryor was wobbled by a big right hand which landed behind his left ear prompting him to shake his head to indicate the shot hadn’t had a damaging effect. After close third, Arguello would again taste the canvass in the fourth after absorbing a solid left hook from the champion. Unfortunately, this was the beginning of the end for the Nicaraguan hard man. Whilst the pace dropped slightly for the following three rounds, the match reignited in the eighth with leather being swapped furiously for the following rounds, often with Pryor edging the exchanges. The end was to come in the tenth as a left uppercut straighten Arguello’s legs. The ensuing barrage of punches prompted the challenger to take a knee and then rock backwards to sit on the canvas, starring forwards until the referee reached the count of ten. The Hawk had retained his title against The Explosive Thin Man by knockout in prompter fashion than their first meeting and without a hint of controversy surrounding the outcome.

Despite assurance to the contrary, Arguello continued his career briefly picking up TKO wins over Pat Jefferson and Billy Costello before winning a narrow majority decision against the unspectacular Jorge Palomares. The end of Arguello’s glittering boxing journey came in Las Vegas upon dropping a unanimous decision to Scott Walker.

The result which should have finally introduced Pryor to the upper echelons of pugilism was ultimately a career peak the likes of which he would never see again. The likes of Sugar Ray Leonard, Ray Mancini and Hector Camacho all turned down the opportunity to meet The Hawk. The beginning of the end of a stunning professional career had started. Following the Arguello win, Pryor briefly retired vacating the WBA belt before acquiring the newly formed IBF’s version on his return. A pair of lacklustre defences against the unspectacular Nick Furlano and Gary Hinton preceded the Champion falling off the boxing radar and into a prolonged period of cocaine addiction.

After the Hinton win, Pryor disappeared for over two years before returning to suffer his one and only defeat, by way of TKO, to former amateur standout Bobby Joe Young in 1987. Pryor would fight three more times before retiring 1990, stopping each opponent. However it was no longer The Hawk that the less than stellar opposition faced, with the former Champion legally blind in his left eye as a result of cataracts and a detached retina and illegal substances continuing to have a grip on his life outside of the ring.

After retirement, Pryor was imprisoned for drug offences. After a period of rehab, things finally turned around culminating in a lasting marriage and ordination as a Baptist Minister.

Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor was inducted into the IBHOF in 1996 in his first year of eligibility and continues to be considered by many as the greatest Light-Welterweight of all time.