Aaron Pryor, also known as “The Hawk,” was an American professional boxer who is best known for his two knockout victories against Alexis Arguello, both in defense of the WBA junior welterweight crown.
He was ranked as the #1 Junior Welterweight of the 20th century by the Associated Press.
Pryor was born on October 20, 1955, in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.
In 1973, he won the National Amateur Athletic Union Lightweight Championship.
In 1975, Aaron won the National AAU Lightweight Championship.
The boxer finished his amateur career having fought for 220 times, with a record of 204 wins and 16 losses.
In 1976, he turned professional.
In 1980, Pryor defeated Antonio Cervantes in 4 rounds to win the WBA junior welterweight championship.
On November 22, 1980, Aaron made his first title defense by knocking out Gaetan Hart in the 6th round. He earned $100,000 for the fight.
In the follow-up year, he knocked out Lennox Blackmore in the 2nd round.
On March 21, 1982, Aaron knocked out Miguel Montilla in the 12th round.
In 1982, Pryor fought with Alexis Argüello, a Nicaraguan professional boxer. The Ring magazine has ranked Alexis as 20th on their list of “100 greatest punchers of all time.”
They went 14 rounds before Aaron defeated Alexis. Alexis was paid $1.5 million for the fight, while Aaron made $1.6 million.
The fight was dubbed The Battle of The Champions by promoter Bob Arum. Ring Magazine named it Fight of the Decade.
The end of the fight was controversial since between the 13th and 14th rounds, the microphones caught Aaron’s trainer telling cutman Artie Curley:
“Give me the other bottle, the one I mixed.”
Some speculated that it was cocaine.
Pryor said about the fight with Arguello:
”I think Alexis Arguello was the smartest fighter I fought.”
He also said:
”Fourteen rounds taking all the punches. He took a lot of punishment. I respect that.”
In 1983, they had a rematch. Aaron won again, this time in 10 rounds. For their second fight, Alexis made $1.75 million and Aaron made $2.25 million.
In July 1983, he signed a 3-year exclusive promotional agreement with the Sands Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City and Stallone’s Tiger Eye Promotions.
One year later, Aaron defended his IBF title against Nick Furlano in Toronto. He won by a lopsided 15-round unanimous decision.
On March 2, 1985, the American boxer defended his title against Gary Hinton, the future IBF light-welterweight champion. Aaron won by a 15-round split decision.
In 1991, he retired with a record of 39 wins, 35 of them by knockout, and a single loss.
In 1996, Pryor was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
In 1999, Aaron was voted the greatest junior welterweight of the 20th century by the Associated Press, reported BoxRec.
In 2002, Pryor was ranked as the 35th greatest boxer of the past 80 years by The Ring.
His boxing career never reached the heights it should have, due to drugs.
In 1983, about 2 months after the second Alexis match, Pryor was arrested in LA on cocaine-possession charges, according to LA Times.
In 1988, Aaron reported that he had wasted about $500,000 on drugs. He also said:
”I did thousands and thousands of dollars of cocaine.”
Pryor went on to say:
”But it didn’t take no money for Aaron Pryor to get high. Everybody wanted me to come to their crack house. They still do today.”
In April 1990, Aaron was ordered to undergo a 2-year treatment for drug abuse.
He recovered from his drug addiction at age 40. In addition, Pryor was ordained as a deacon at New Friendship Baptist Church, said the Courier-Journal.
Aaron Pryor was married to Frankie Banks.
During a 2012 interview, Pryor said about his wife:
“I’ve been married for 20 years to the same girl. Things are just going really great for me.”
Aaron had four children, named Elizabeth, Antwan, Stephan, and Aaron Jr.
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Death & Cause Of Death
Pryor died on October 9, 2016, at his home in Cincinnati after a long battle with heart disease. He was 60.
He is survived by his wife, Frankie, daughter, Elizabeth, sons Antwan Harris and Aaron Jr., and grandsons Aaron Pryor III, Austin, and Adam.
After his death, Frankie Pryor declared in a statement:
“Aaron was known around the world as The Hawk and delighted millions of fans with his aggressive and crowd-pleasing boxing style.”
The widow added:
“But to our family, he was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and friend.”
Ed Schuyler Jr., a boxing writer for Associated Press, said:
“He was very unorthodox and could throw punches from all kinds of angles with great hand speed.”
“He was a great fighter, it’s too bad he didn’t have more fights.”
Sugar Ray Leonard, an American former professional boxer, said:
“I have great love, respect, and admiration for my long-time friend. He will be greatly missed by so many.”
Buddy LaRosa, his former manager, said about Aaron for Cincinnati:
“Aaron could box when he had to box. He could punch when he had to punch. Stamina, he’d wear you down.”
LaRosa also said:
“It’s a sad day for boxing. Aaron was such a tremendous fighter, and a fierce competitor.”
Pryor was 5′ 6½” (1.69 m) tall.
”Dedication and being able to learn from your coach will carry you much farther than just natural ability.”
”I think Cervantes was one of the greatest I ever fought.”
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Aaron Pryor – Net Worth
Pryor earned most of his wealth from boxing. He won 204 of his 220 amateur fights. Later, he turned pro.
As a professional boxer, he was partially successful, mainly due to his drug use. Between 1980 and 1985, he earned around $5.2 million.
In December 1980, he rejected an offer of $500,000 (because he wanted more money) to fight Sugar Ray Leonard for the WBC Welterweight Championship.
For the two Argüello fights, Aaron was paid $3.85 million. However, his manager at the time, Buddy LaRosa, received 50% of the money Pryor won for boxing. He even once said – “After Buddy took his half, the government took half.” Aaron also said – ”Then after that my wife at the time had to have her half.” Therefore, at the time of his death, Aaron Pryor had an estimated net worth of $0.7 million.
Featured image source – © Guliver / Getty Images.
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