Born on this day: Aaron Pryor
A defensive wizard, a relentless and crafty puncher, and one of the finest 140-pounders in history. The great Aaron Pryor was born 68 years ago today.
Born on October 20, 1955 in Cincinnati, Ohio, “The Hawk” amassed an extraordinary record of 204 wins and 16 losses as an amateur (including wins against a much taller and very young Thomas Hearns) before embarking on a career that would lead him to become a two-time junior welterweight champion.
He turned pro on November 11, 1976, with a second-round stoppage win over of Larry Smith, and proceeded to score 32 knockouts in his next 34 fights, including a fifth-round KO win over former champ Alfonso “Peppermint” Frazer.
Graduation night came in his own backyard on August 2, 1980, when Pryor took on Colombia’s two-time world champion Antonio Cervantes for the WBA 140-pound belt. He rose from a short trip to the canvas in the first round to stop all-time great Cervantes in the fourth round and take his crown.
After squandering golden opportunities to face fellow all-time greats such as Sugar Ray Leonard or Roberto Duran due to serious managerial mishandlings, Pryor accumulated a string of minor title defenses until his opus magna came in the form of a two-fight series with the legendary Alexis Arguello.
It was during this fight that the infamous “BottleGate” took place, when the live broadcast’s microphones caught Pryor’s trainer Panama Lewis asking an assistant for “the other bottle, the one I mixed” right after a disastrous thirteenth round in which Pryor was on the verge of being stopped.
A few sips from Lewis’ magic potion later, Pryor demolished Arguello with a barrage of punches.
In order to erase all controversies, a rematch was scheduled for September 9, 1983. With Panama Lewis having lost his license due to his decision to remove padding from Luis Resto’s gloves before his fight with Billy Collins Jr. on June 16, 1983, Pryor turned to trainer Richie Giachetti first and then Emanuel Steward to work his corner.
This time, Pryor offered a more dominant performance even after being dropped early in the fight (one of his trademarks, by now) and stopped Arguello in ten rounds.
Pryor retired after the fight, but returned to action when the newly-formed IBF named him world champion. He made a few defenses of this new title but drugs had already taken hold of his personal life, and was later stripped of his belt by the IBF.
With his life already altered by drugs and physical problems including a badly detached retina, Pryor finally hung up the gloves in 1990 with an extraordinary record of 39 wins and 1 loss, with 35 knockouts.
Pryor cleaned up his act stayed sober until the end of his life, which took place in 2016.
Pryor was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1996.
Diego M. Morilla writes for The Ring since 2013. He has also written for HBO.com, ESPN.com and many other magazines, websites, newspapers and outlets since 1993. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He has won two first-place awards in the BWAA’s annual writing contest, and he is the moderator of The Ring’s Women’s Ratings Panel. He served as copy editor for the second era of The Ring en Español (2018-2020) and is currently a writer and editor for RingTV.com.