Aaron Pryor: 1955-2016
By: Sean Crose
Word has come through various media outlets that Aaron Pryor, the junior welterweight legend, has died. This is a big loss for fight fans, as Pyror was truly an all-time great. Known primarily for defeating Alexis Arguello in two epic wars back in the early 80s, the man also bested the iconic Tommy Hearns in the armatures and was often named as a possible opponent for the likes of Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran. The fact that such high end (and high profile) professional matches never came to be is a loss for the sport of boxing, but Pryor was able to hone his own legacy, regardless, with a fearless, freewheeling aggressive ring style and a take no prisoners attitude.
He also proved a warrior outside of the ring. After being wild and temperamental in his youth, the man had the strength to kick a serious drug habit in 1993 on his way to becoming a respected former great. Indeed, the guy’s heartfelt sorrow on the passing of his former foe, Arguello, after the Nicaraguan’s untimely passing in 2009 showed just how far Pryor had gone in the right direction since his Augustinian youth. To be sure, he even went on to act as a motivational speaker for such groups as the New York Jets. Still, the Cincinnati native will be primarily remembered for being “The Hawk,” a thoroughly overwhelming and intimidating ring presence.
Watching Pryor’s fights today is a true pleasure. For here was a fighter who was pure action. And heart. He took hell from Arguello, but managed to defeat the hard hitting thin man in the fourteenth round. That victory came with controversy, as there was a widespread belief that Pryor had ingested substance in between rounds that kicked in and helped his performance. Pryor proved just as good in his rematch against Arguello the following year, however, stopping his man in the 10th. To be sure, Pryor had just one loss on his record, which was the result of a comeback fight against Bobby Joe Young in 1987.
The actions of Pryor of that night, however, were nothing short of bizarre, for he engaged in behavior that appeared to be either compulsive (repeatedly crossing himself) or completely senseless (some thought he helped Young up after knocking him down). Either way, the loss proved to be a blip on an otherwise extremely successful career. Just how good was Pryor? Suffice to say he’d be avoided today by so many name opponents, one would think the man’s nickname was GGG.
In the end, perhaps the greatest junior welterweight in history succumbed to heart disease. No doubt he went out fighting.