Aaron Pryor and Alexis Arguello Stage One Boxing’s Greatest Contests
In boxing, there are fights that leave fans entertained, then there are elite bouts that stand the test of time. One of those matchups occurred on November 12, 1982 at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida between Aaron “Hawk” Pryor (record coming in: 31-0, 29 KOs) and “The Explosive Thin Man” Alexis Arguello (record coming in: 72-5 ,59 KOs).
RESPECT VERSUS LEGACY
Aaron Pryor came into the bout as the reigning WBA junior welterweight champion. He won the title with a fifth-round stoppage of future Hall of Famer Antonio Cervantes in August 1980. The champ had successfully defended the titles five times, steamrolling the competition with his relentless, pressure-fighting style. But the pride of Cincinnati, Ohio was a fighter in a long pursuit of respect. Pryor wanted superstar acclaim, feeling he deserved to be mentioned in the same light as his contemporaries: Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, and Roberto Duran.
Alexis Arguello had established himself as one of the great fighters of the 1970s. He was lauded for his classic fighting style, prodigious punching power in the ring and his easy-going demeanor away from the ring. A champion at 126, 130, and 135, the native of Nicaragua was attempting to be the first fighter to win a title in four separate weight classes.
THE DEFINITION OF A CLASSIC FIGHT
Pryor’s intensity was evident before the opening bell. He pointed his fist and looked coldly at Arguello during the ring instructions. The Hawk came out firing at the opening bell, looking to land bombs. It took a couple of rounds for Arguello to adjust. By the third, he found some distance and landed with his own hard right hands and left hooks.
As the bout carried into the middle rounds, the champ switched tactics. He started to box more and use the jab. Because Pryor elected to fight on the outside, it allowed Arguello to sharp-shoot with his vaunted right hand. However, Pryor was scoring points and landing with consistency. The action was fierce, and the quality of boxing was high-caliber.
In round thirteen, Arguello landed his best punch of the fight. A picture-perfect right hand snapped Pryor’s head back and had the Orange Bowl crowd on its feet. Surprisingly, Pryor soaked it up and kept coming!
At the beginning of the next round, Pryor popped Arguello with a left jab, followed by an overhand right. An additional series of punches stunned Arguello and had him reeling backward. From there, the champ went beast mode, tearing into his foe until referee Stanley Christodoulou had no recourse but to step in and stop the fight.
STILL A TOPIC OF DEBATE
In the decades since this fight, you’ve had plenty of controversies. After the thirteenth round, television cameras overheard Pryor’s trainer, Panama Lewis, demand his fighter a drink from a bottle that he specifically mixed.
Many fans and pundits have long suspected that the bottle was filled with an illegal substance, especially considering how Pryor came out with such vigor in what proved to be the finishing round. The bottle was neither inspected nor analyzed after the fight.
Regardless, it has not taken away from what was a thrilling battle. Old-school heads consider it one of the top five fights of the 1980s and arguably the best fight ever in the junior welterweight division. Younger fans opine on social media and message boards that it’s a must-watch old-school contest.
They fought a rematch in September 1983, with Pryor dominating a clearly faded Arguello before knocking him out in ten rounds. But their first encounter is forever etched in the minds of boxing enthusiasts. If there ever was a battle that exceeded expectations, it was that famed fight in the Orange Bowl when two Hall of Famers gave folks a night that will never be forgotten.
By: Michael Wilson Jr.