Tuesday, February 07, 2023  |



On this day: Aaron Pryor knocks out Antonio Cervantes in four, wins 140-pound championship

Image by © Bettmann/ CORBIS

What do you do if you can’t secure a lightweight world title fight? Simple, just move up five pounds and dethrone a future Hall of Famer.

On August 2, 1980, Aaron Pryor scored a stunning fourth-round knockout of Antonio Cervantes to win The Ring and WBA junior welterweight championships at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio. The official time was 1:47.

Cervantes, who brought a 63-10-1 record into the fight, was 18-2 in world title bouts and already a legend. The Colombian star was in his second reign and owned wins over Nicolino Locche, Esteban De Jesus and Saoul Mamby.

The 24-year-old Pryor was 10 years younger than his opponent. Powerful, talented and gutsy, the unbeaten Cincinnati star also carried a chip on his shoulder. In comparison to former amateur teammates Sugar Ray Leonard and Howard Davis, Pryor turned pro in relative obscurity. And he would never forget it.

Even after reaching world title contention at lightweight, Pryor became convinced that neither Jim Watt (WBC champ) or Hilmer Kenty (WBA champ) had any interest in facing him.

Fully confident in his ability, and with the engine of a long-haul aircraft, Pryor targeted Cervantes.

It was a terrific and fast-paced fight. A brilliant counter puncher, Cervantes dropped the on-rushing Pryor with a perfect right to the chin in the opening round. How hurt was Pryor? As he took the standing eight, the challenger mockingly wound up his right glove before attacking with fury.

Pryor did a lot of missing in the first three rounds, but one right hand cut the champion’s right eye in the third. With blood impeding his vision and a relentless opponent applying suffocating pressure, Cervantes appeared extremely uncomfortable.

In the fourth, Pryor broke through with a brutal combination assault, punctuated by a right hand to the chin, which dropped Cervantes in a neutral corner. The champ was worn to a frazzle and referee Larry Rozadilla completed the full 10-count.

“Cervantes had 100 fights and held the championship for about 10 years (in two reigns) until he fought me,” recalled Pryor in an interview with The Ring in 2013. “He knocked me down in the first round, I got back up and knocked him out. I think Cervantes was one of the greatest I ever fought.”