By: Sean Crose
As a general rule, I tend to score fights as I watch them. It’s almost a subconscious act at this point. I started scoring fights as a fan with Leonard-Hagler back in 1987, and have only become more intense in my scoring since I started actually writing about the fight game close to a decade ago. Some fights, however, captivate me to the degree that even now my kneejerk reaction to score every bout I watch magically disappears. The first battle between Aaron Pryor and Alexis Arguello is one of those fights. Full disclosure, my eleven year old self did not view the fight live. I remember when it happened, however, and reading about the outcome the next day. The match, to be sure, was a big deal.
For Arguello, the Nicaraguan hero with a lanky frame and three divisional championships on his resume, was moving up to junior welterweight to face Cincinnati’s feared and undefeated Pryor for Pryor’s WBA belt. What you have to keep in mind here is that this was 1982, not 2021. Titles meant something then. They REALLY meant something. Sure they mean something now, but back then there weren’t a million of them floating around. What’s more, fighters today don’t take on major challenges when they collect their forty-seventh divisional title. At least not that often. Arguello chose to fight Pryor, and Pryor chose to fight Arguello. Again, this was 1982. Fans weren’t satisfied with major fights going down on social media. They demanded they go down in the ring.
And so on November 12th of that year, the 72-5 Arguello stepped into the ring at Miami’s Orange bowl to battle the 31-0 WBA champion Pryor in a scheduled 15 round battle. The first part of the fight was a pure high octane affair, with Pryor going in like a buzz saw and Arguello holding his own. Pryor began to slow down a bit in the middle rounds – the human body can only work so hard and so fast for so long. Still, the man never stopped battling his challenger. As for Arguello, the long, lean fighter found his way to land and land hard enough for the fight to be so close it was hard to tell heading into the later rounds who would actually win.
Finally, in the fourteenth, Pryor hurt his man. Arguello went back on the ropes and Pryor kept on throwing until the referee wisely stepped in and stopped the fight. It had been an epic affair, one that the broadcast team (which included “Sugar” Ray Leonard, who Pryor had wanted to fight) was aware had been special. Rumors of Pryor ingesting an illegal substance in the later rounds of the battle would mar an absolutely stellar performance, but the fighter known as “The Hawk” would go on to defeat Arguello again in their rematch less than a year later.