Aaron Pryor, the relentless junior welterweight who fought two memorable fights with Alexis Arguello, died Sunday. He was 60.
Pryor’s family issued a statement saying that the boxer died at his home in Cincinnati after a long battle with heart disease.
Known as “The Hawk” Pryor was a crowd favorite who struggled with a frenetic style, rarely or never take a step backwards. His fights in the 1980s with Arguello, the great champion of Nicaragua, were both classic that is still spoken in boxing circles.
But Pryor was a champion with problems, and his career could fade as a result of an addiction to cocaine.
“It was very unorthodox and could throw punches from all kinds of angles with great hand speed,” said former AP reporter boxing Ed Schuyler Jr. “He was a great fighter, it’s a pity he had no fights.”
Pryor’s widow, Frankie Pryor said her husband – who speaks out later about the evils of drugs – also had a side most fans do not know.
“Aaron was known worldwide as” The Hawk “and delighted millions of fans with his aggressive boxing style and crowd-pleasing” he said in a statement announcing his death. “However, for our family was a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and friend.”
Pryor was undefeated in 31 fights when he and Arguello met in a crash title at 140 pounds in the Orange Bowl in Miami on November 12, 1982. Arguello was a classic boxer-puncher considered one of the best pound for pound, but Pryor would not backtrack when the two men exchanged blows during most of the 14 rounds.
Pryor finally wore down Arguello, stopping him in the 14th round with a series of punches. Ring Magazine picked after the bout as the fight of the decade.
“It was one of the best fights I’ve ever seen,” Schuyler said. “I got in the top five.”
Pryor’s victory was marred, however, by questions about a bottle wrapped in black tape his corner man to his lips several times between rounds in the fight.
Many think that in boxing containing stimulants, but the corner man, Artie Curley, said it was peppermint schnapps.
Pryor would beat Arguello again next September in Las Vegas, this time stopping him in the 10th round of their scheduled 15-round bout. Arguello fell in the round of a series of punches and refused to back up.
“Arguello was a great fighter, but he could not handle Pryor,” Schuyler said. “It could have been raised, but what was the point?”
The second fight Arguello was the pinnacle of Pryor’s career. It became a heavy consumer of cocaine, and fought only six times in the next seven years, finishing his career with a record of 39-1 with 35 knockouts.
“I reached out and some people did not give me the right hand,” Pryor said after his drug use. “They gave me drugs.”
Pryor was named the “greatest welterweight of the century” by The Associated Press, and was inducted into the International Hall of Fame in 1996. Later traveling the world making personal appearances and spreading their message against drugs.
Pryor is survived by his wife and companion of more than a quarter century, Frankie Pryor, Aaron Pryor Jr. sons and Antwan Harris, Elizabeth Wagner daughter and three grandchildren Adam, Austin and Aaron Pryor III.