Aaron Pryor-Sugar Ray Leonard It should of happened twice
By Daniel Hughes: It’s good to read in the comments sections on many different articles on this and different sites about those forgotten exciting fighters and those views on who they are. Aaron Pryor ‘The Hawk’ a 140lb WBA/IBF world champion, 39 (35kos)-1, certainly one to look up for the younger fight fan that may well of watched the well-known names of the era and want to watch and learn about other great fighters of the 80’s.
Those of us that were lucky enough to grow up on Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Tommy Hearns and my own favorite of the fabulous four Marvin Hagler were spoilt. There was of course other great fighters of that era but this article is about Aaron Pryor and how he went under the radar because he could and should have fought Sugar Ray Leonard twice. He was all action dangerous and to me avoided he brought a style that many thought better to avoid.
Aaron Pryor was a natural light welterweight as was of course Ray Leonard and both were competing for a time to get on the all-star Olympic squad of 1976 in that division. It should have happened in the amateurs, but Pryor was persuaded to drop down to lightweight to try to get an Olympic spot. It was something he regretted afterwards he felt he had Leonard’s number, but Leonard was the number one 140lb fighter and even then the golden hope of the Olympic team. The talent at lightweight such that Pryor beat Tommy Hearns then lost out to the eventual gold medal winner Howard Davies Jr. It was a close decision. Davies Jr went on to win the Val Barker trophy as the best amateur at the games. Pryor on the outside looking in wasted no time in turning pro.
The USA squad of 1976 came up trumps medal wise. The participants signing lucrative deals with promoters and TV, who wanted a piece of all of them all, a real feel good factor in USA boxing the fighters cashed in, it only made Pryor more determined to get to the top and hopefully at some point meet SRL.It would of been a spectacular fight.
Pryor, such an exciting dangerous fighter, the two fights with Mexican great Alexis Arguello stand the test of time as to the quality of Pryor and the fighters around at that time. Great action, great controversy in the first fight, but above all two great fighters willing to meet in the ring to fight the best around in your weight class. The Leonard fight was to have happened around the same time as the first Arguello fight and fell through in unfortunate circumstances.
Aaron Pryor had no doubt chased a Sugar Ray Leonard fight and it actually was going to happen in Autumn 1982.It actually got to the point where Leonard-Pryor was the fight that TV and the paying public wanted was actually going to happen. Pryor had an initial offer of around $500k that his team negotiated up to $750k.
Sugar Ray Leonard took a warm up fight first against Roger Stafford. He detached his retina, fight off he retired briefly soon afterwards. Pryor never got the fight he craved more than any other the chance to meet Sugar Ray Leonard and the chance to really turn into the household name he should have been.
He did go on to have those great fights against Arguello, and made better money than the potential Leonard fight in both. The Ring named the first fight a 14th round stoppage win for Pryor as fight of the decade. The fight had its side story with his trainer Panama Lewis involvement and the infamous ‘other bottle’.
The real story for me is a fighter that never really gets the plaudits he deserves because he should have been a superstar and not just a fighter respected by the hard core fight fans of past and present. The Arguello fights paid well but a possible fight and win against Leonard would have taken him to another level. I will leave you with his quote on hearing the SRL fight was off due to injury, he was driving at the time and heard it on the radio. Aaron Pryor said, ‘my reaction was to pull my car over….I cried my eyes out!’ Great fighter Pryor, maybe we are the ones who should be upset because it would have been another classic rivalry. The Arguello fights would have still happened and the respect they brought, but Sugar Ray was the fight he craved.