Aaron Pryor’s 12-title fights featured one ring appearance in Miami. And what a ring outing it was.
Pryor — whose epic junior-welterweight title fight with Alexis Arguello on Nov. 12, 1982, in the Orange Bowl is considered the best championship bout in Florida boxing history — died Sunday of heart problems in his native Cincinnati. Pryor was 60.
When the top fighters of the 1980s — arguably the sport’s last memorable decade — are mentioned, Pryor may not have enjoyed the repeated high-profile settings such as contemporaries Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler. But Pryor’s accomplishments merited recognition with those aforementioned champions.
When the opportunity to face Arguello became available, Pryor, known as “The Hawk,” considered it the suitable setting to back his claims of dominance after attempts to land fights with Leonard and Hearns were unsuccessful.
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Arguello sought to become a four-division champion when he challenged Pryor for his junior-welterweight crown. During 13 exciting rounds, Pryor and Arguello traded punches at a furious pace until Pryor finished Arguello with a flurry of unanswered combinations.
“Aaron felt he was overlooked and just needed an opportunity to prove the doubters wrong,” said Miami promoter Walter Alvarez, who headed a group of investors who helped land the fight in Miami. “He took advantage of his moment in historic fashion.
“In my opinion, he was the best junior-welterweight in the history of boxing. He had a motor that kept going. Aaron was in a class by himself.”
But Pryor’s career crumbled after his rematch victory over Arguello the following year. Pryor succumbed to a cocaine addiction in the mid-1980s and fought sporadically the next six years at venues far from the marquee settings and opponents he targeted after his victories over Arguello.
Pryor retired in 1990 with a 39-1 record and 36 knockouts. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1996.
“Although it was a great career, it could have been greater but his biggest enemy was out of the ring,” Alvarez said. “The same passion he had for boxing he had for the streets.”
Pryor overcame his drug addiction and returned to Cincinnati, where he became a motivational speaker and took an interest in the boxing careers of his sons, Aaron Jr. and Stephan.
Around the ring
A second postponement of the Tyson Fury-Wladimir Klitschko rematch likely will result in the stripping of Fury’s two remaining heavyweight sanctioning body belts.
If Fury is dethroned without throwing a punch, Klitschko, a part-time Hollywood resident, is an obvious challenger for one of the vacant titles. Given his lengthy title reign that spanned nine years, Klitschko merits a championship berth for the World Boxing Association or World Boxing Organization belts Fury held but presumably will never defend.
Last November, Fury defeated Klitschko for the two titles as well as the International Boxing Federation belt that was immediately stripped from Fury after he failed to make a mandatory defense.
A scheduled rematch against Klitchsko in the summer was postponed after Fury sustained an ankle injury while training. The rescheduled date of Oct. 29 resulted in another postponement because of undisclosed health reasons involving Fury. Reports later surfaced that Fury tested positive for cocaine.