Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor!
Aaron Pryor (October 20, 1955 – October 9, 2016) was an American professional boxer who competed from 1976 to 1990. He was a two-time light welterweight world champion, having held the WBA title from 1980 to 1983, and the IBF title from 1984 to 1985. Additionally, he held the Ring magazine title from 1980 to 1983, and the lineal title from 1983 to 1986.
In 1982, the Boxing Writers Association of America named Pryor as their Fighter of the Year. Pryor was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1996, and in 1999 was voted by the Associated Press as the world’s best light welterweight of the 20th century. In 2002, he was ranked as the 35th greatest boxer of the past 80 years by The Ring.
Pryor, nicknamed The Hawk, had a record of 204 wins and 16 losses as an amateur. He won the National Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Lightweight Championship in 1973. In 1975, Pryor again won the National AAU Lightweight Championship and a silver medal at the Pan American Games, losing in the final to Canadian Chris Clarke.
Pryor beat future champion Thomas Hearns in the lightweight finals of the 1976 National Golden Gloves, but lost to Howard Davis Jr. at the 1976 Olympic Trials. Pryor participated as an alternate in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.
Pryor finished his amateur career having 220 fights under his belt, with a record of 204 wins, 16 losses.
Pryor turned professional on November 11, 1976, with a second-round knockout of Larry Smith, for which he made $400. A few days later, Pryor signed a managerial contract with Buddy LaRosa, owner of LaRosa’s Pizzeria. He was also trained by Raymond Cartier.
Pryor fought eight times in 1977, winning all but two by knockout. The only two fighters who lasted the entire fight with Pryor that year were Jose Resto and Johnny Summerhayes, each losing by an eight-round unanimous decision. After the fight with Summerhayes, Pryor won 26 fights in a row by knockout. It was one of the longest knockout streaks in the history of boxing.
In his last fight of 1979, Pryor was pitted for the first time ever against a former or future world champion when he faced former WBA light welterweight champion Alfonso “Peppermint” Frazer of Panama. Pryor knocked out Frazer in the fifth round, advancing his fight record to 20-0 with 18 knockouts. After defeating Fraser, Pryor entered the World Boxing Association rankings.
On August 2, 1980, Pryor faced two-time world champion Antonio Cervantes of Colombia for the WBA light-welterweight championship. His purse was $50,000. The fight took place in Pryor’s hometown of Cincinnati and was nationally televised by the CBS network. Pryor was knocked down in round one, but he rose and knocked out Cervantes in round four to become champion. He made his first title defense on November 22, 1980, knocking out Gaetan Hart in the sixth round. Pryor made $100,000 for the fight.
In December 1980, Pryor rejected an offer of $500,000 to fight Sugar Ray Leonard for the WBC welterweight championship because he wanted more money. When the WBC raised the offer to $750,000, he rejected that as well. Pryor signed to fight WBC light-welterweight champion Saoul Mamby in a unification bout for $1 million. The bout was tentatively scheduled for February 7, 1981. However, the fight fell apart when the promoter, Harold Smith, disappeared amid allegations that he was involved in a $21.3 million fraud against Wells Fargo National Bank. Smith, whose real name was Ross Fields, was later sentenced to ten years in prison after he was convicted of 29 counts of fraud and embezzlement.
Pryor was then offered $750,000 to fight Roberto Durán in April 1981, but Pryor turned it down because his new attorney told him not to sign anything until he worked out a new contract with manager Buddy LaRosa. By the time they worked out a new agreement, the chance to fight Durán was gone.
On June 27, 1981, Pryor knocked out Lennox Blackmore in the second round. He then defended the title against undefeated Dujuan Johnson on November 14, 1981. Johnson knocked down Pryor in round one, but Pryor came back to stop Johnson in the seventh round.
Pryor knocked out Miguel Montilla in the twelfth round on March 21, 1982. His next title defense was against the undefeated Akio Kameda of Japan. The fight took place on July 4, 1982. Once again, Pryor was knocked down in the first round but came back to score a sixth-round knockout.
Pryor signed to face Sugar Ray Leonard for the undisputed welterweight championship in the fall of 1982 for $750,000. But before fighting Pryor, Leonard first had to defend his title against Roger Stafford in Buffalo, New York, on May 14, 1982. The Sunday before that bout, Pryor was driving to Buffalo from his Cincinnati home to taunt Leonard and hype their planned bout. Pryor heard on his car radio the news that Leonard had suffered a detached retina in his left eye and the fight was off. “I pulled off to the side of the road and I cried,” Pryor said. Leonard retired six months later.