5. Aaron Pryor Vs Alexis Argüello I
November 12, 1982
Venue: The Orange Bowl
After Alexis Argüello’s two classic fights against Alfredo Escalera, he continued to dominate the 130-pound division before moving up to 135 pounds. On June 20, 1981, he outboxed WBC Lightweight Champion Jim Watt to win the title. After knocking out the very popular Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini later that year, he decided to move up to face, in my opinion, the greatest 140-pound fighter of all time: Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor.
The 27-year-old Pryor was one of the most dynamic forces ever to step inside the squared circle. Pryor fought with endless energy and willpower. He would swarm over his opponents like a windmill and had devastating power in both hands. Pryor won the WBA Jr. Welterweight title on August 2, 1980 with a fourth round destruction of the legendary Colombian Antonio Cervantes. He was one of the most avoided fighters on the planet. Only the great Argüello would step up and give Pryor the huge payday he so rightfully deserved.
My father took me to see this fight at the same Puerto Rico Theater that showed all the big closed circuit fights of that era. Going into the fight, he reminded me of the fact that Argüello always had difficulty with boxers who moved and stayed outside. Pryor was a very aggressive fighter who threw punches in bunches. My father felt that Pryor was going to walk into one of Argüello’s huge counters and be knocked out. The first four rounds saw Pryor rush at the 30-year-old Argüello like my father predicted. Early in the opening stanza, Argüello hit Pryor right on the button with a right cross that momentarily stunned him. Pryor shook it off and proceeded to out-slug Argüello and stun him twice with his own right hand in a frantic and fast-paced first round. Rounds two to four saw the same pattern repeat itself. Pryor would attack Argüello and the two all-time greats would hit each other with one bomb after another. Pryor had the advantage in these exchanges because of his superior hand speed. There was no way these two fighters could keep this frenzied pace going for an entire 15 rounds.
Pryor did what great fighters do in the fifth round and adjusted his style. He went from taking the fight to Argüello to moving side to side and boxing from the outside. From rounds five to ten, Pryor used his superior foot and hand speed to befuddle Argüello. He landed his underrated jab at will and Argüello couldn’t deal with it. Argüello would land an occasional big right hand, but every time he did, Pryor would come back with a sizzling combination and then move out of harms way. My father couldn’t believe the boxing IQ that Pryor was displaying. He had figured that Pryor’s machismo would do him in. Pryor was making his transformation into boxing immortality.
The next three rounds saw Pryor not move as much due to fatigue. The two boxing giants once again exchanged bombs while inside. Argüello landed several wicked right hands that caught Pryor but didn’t move him. Argüello landed one of the best right crosses I’ve ever seen in the 13th round that snapped Pryor’s head back like a bobble head doll. My father and I couldn’t believe that Pryor wasn’t knocked out from that. Not only did that shot not hurt Pryor, it didn’t slow him down, as Pryor continued to land one big shot after another. After the 13th round ended, my father expressed to me that Argüello was done. Nothing was getting in the way of Pryor winning this fight.
Between rounds 13 and 14, Pryor’s trainer Panama Lewis gave Pryor a black bottle that contained an unknown beverage. While many boxing pundits cried foul play, I always felt that it didn’t matter what Pryor drank that night. He wasn’t going to be denied a victory in the biggest fight of his career. Pryor came out roaring in the 14th and landed a lethal right cross, left hook combination that staggered Argüello. Pryor then launched a fusillade of unanswered punched to the head and body, 25 to be exact, until referee Stanley Christodoulou stepped in to stop the fight. Argüello fell down in a heap against the ropes. Aaron Pryor proved he was the greatest 140-pound fighter of all-time that night in Miami.
Pryor would again knock out Argüello in a rematch 10 months later. That would be the beginning of the end for Pryor as he began losing to the only opponent who owned him; cocaine. Pryor became increasingly addicted to the drug, which ended his marriage and had him washed up as a boxer in his early 30s. He was stripped of his title in 1985 and in 1987 was knocked out by Bobby Joe Young in his only career defeat. When Pryor finally retired in 1990 at the age of 35, he was broke, legally blind in his left eye and totally hooked on drugs. Pryor then began to turn his life around. After several years of battling drug addiction, Pryor was successful in coping with his drug dependency and became a drug rehabilitation counselor in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. Pryor became best friends with Argüello and continued his crusade against the ills of cocaine. Pryor died of heart disease in 2016, 11 days shy of his 61st birthday.
After the beating he received from Pryor in their second fight, Argüello announced his retirement. Unfortunately, Argüello made a comeback because of financial difficulty. The Sandinista government in Argüello’s native Nicaragua seized all his assets. Argüello was living in Miami and, like Pryor, had become addicted to cocaine. After a few abbreviated comebacks, Argüello’s career finally came to an end in 1995 at the age of 43. Eventually, Argüello, with the help of Pryor, was able to overcome his addiction to cocaine and made a deal with the Sandinistas in order to return to Nicaragua. Argüello joined the Sandinista party and with their support in 2008 was elected mayor of Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua. On July 1, 2009, he was discovered in his mansion dead from a gunshot to his chest. The Nicaraguan government ruled it a suicide. Argüello was just 57.