How Aaron Pryor, the Greatest Junior Welterweight of All Time, Died of Heart Disease

Aaron Pryor was a legendary boxer who dominated the light welterweight division in the 1980s. He was known for his relentless aggression, speed, power, and stamina. He was also involved in some of the most memorable and controversial fights in boxing history, especially his two epic battles with Alexis Arguello. Pryor was widely regarded as one of the best fighters of his era and one of the greatest junior welterweights of all time. However, his brilliant career was cut short by drug addiction, personal problems, and health issues. He died of heart disease at the age of 60 on October 9, 2016.

Early Life and Amateur Career

Pryor was born on October 20, 1955, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He grew up in a poor and violent neighborhood, where he learned to fight at a young age. He started boxing at the age of 10 and soon showed exceptional talent and potential. He had a record of 204 wins and 16 losses as an amateur. He won the National Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Lightweight Championship in 1973 and 1975. He also won a silver medal at the Pan American Games in 1975, losing in the final to Canadian Chris Clarke.

Pryor had a chance to represent the United States at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, but he lost to Howard Davis Jr. controversially at the Olympic Trials. Davis went on to win the gold medal and the Val Barker Trophy as the best boxer of the tournament. Pryor participated as an alternate but did not compete. He later claimed that he was robbed of his Olympic dream by corrupt judges and officials.

Professional Career and Rise to Stardom

Pryor turned professional on November 11, 1976, with a second-round knockout of Larry Smith. He quickly rose through the ranks, winning his first 24 fights by knockout. He captured the WBA junior welterweight title on August 2, 1980, by stopping Antonio Cervantes in four rounds. Cervantes was a veteran champion who had defended his belt 10 times. Pryor knocked him down twice in the first round and once more in the fourth before the referee stopped the fight.

Pryor defended his title nine times, all by knockout. He faced some tough challengers, such as Gaetan Hart, Lennox Blackmoore, Miguel Montilla, and Akio Kameda. However, none of them could withstand Pryor’s relentless pressure and punching power. Pryor earned a reputation as one of the most exciting and feared fighters in the sport.

The Fights with Alexis Arguello

Pryor’s most famous and controversial fights were his two bouts with Alexis Arguello, a Nicaraguan legend who had won world titles in three weight classes. Arguello moved up to challenge Pryor for his junior welterweight crown on November 12, 1982, in Miami. The fight was dubbed “The Battle of The Champions” by promoter Bob Arum and was widely anticipated by boxing fans and experts.

The fight lived up to its hype, as both fighters exchanged blows for 14 rounds in a brutal and thrilling contest. Pryor started fast and aggressive, while Arguello used his jab and counterpunching skills to keep him at bay. The fight was close and competitive throughout, with both fighters landing hard shots and hurting each other several times. Pryor seemed to have an edge in stamina and activity, while Arguello had an advantage in accuracy and experience.

The fight reached its climax in the 14th round, when Pryor unleashed a furious barrage of punches that overwhelmed Arguello and sent him to the canvas. Arguello tried to get up but collapsed again before the referee counted him out. Pryor retained his title by knockout in one of the greatest fights of all time.

However, the fight was also marred by controversy, as between the 13th and 14th rounds, Pryor’s trainer Panama Lewis was heard asking for a mysterious bottle from his cutman Artie Curley. Lewis said: “Give me the other bottle, the one I mixed.” Some speculated that the bottle contained an illegal substance that gave Pryor an extra boost of energy and strength. Others suggested that it was just water mixed with asthma medication that Pryor used legally.

The controversy led to an investigation by the Florida State Athletic Commission, which found no evidence of wrongdoing by Pryor or his team. The commission also tested both fighters for drugs after the fight and found no traces of any banned substances.

Pryor and Arguello met again on September 9, 1983, in Las Vegas for a rematch. The second fight was less competitive than the first one, as Pryor dominated from start to finish. He knocked down Arguello twice in the first round and once more in the 10th round before the referee stopped the fight. Pryor won by knockout again and proved that he was the better fighter.

Decline and Retirement

After his second win over Arguello, Pryor’s career went downhill. He became addicted to cocaine and alcohol, which affected his performance and discipline. He also had legal and financial troubles, as well as marital problems. He fought only four more times after 1983, winning three and losing one. His only loss came by knockout to Bobby Joe Young in 1987, in a stunning upset.

Pryor attempted a comeback in 1990, but he was past his prime and had lost his vision in one eye due to a detached retina. He won two fights against low-level opponents before retiring for good. He finished his career with a record of 39 wins, 35 of them by knockout, and one loss.

Death and Legacy

Pryor suffered from various health problems in his later years, including prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease. He died of heart disease on October 9, 2016, at the age of 60. He was survived by his wife Frankie and his seven children.

Pryor was widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time, especially in the junior welterweight division. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1996 and was voted by the Associated Press as the best junior welterweight of the 20th century in 1999. He was also ranked as the 35th greatest boxer of the past 80 years by The Ring magazine in 2002.

Pryor was known for his aggressive and exciting fighting style, which earned him many fans and admirers. He was also respected for his courage and determination, which helped him overcome many obstacles and challenges in his life and career. He was a fighter who never gave up and always gave his best.

Pryor’s legacy lives on through his fights, his fans, and his family. He will always be remembered as a boxing legend and a champion.

Doms Desk

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