“‘Scuse me while kiss the sky.”
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Imagine the picturesque sight of a predatorial bird as it advances on its victim. They say that the talented hawk will hide its talons, but it speaks nothing of the special one.
Few managed to escape the clutches of “The Hawk,” Aaron Pryor, one of the greatest fighters to have ever lived, whose fighting heart gave out at 5:57 a.m. on Sunday morning. Pryor would've turned 61 on October 20.
A legendary warrior of rugged beauty to those who saw him battle, Pryor was an 80's version of the great Henry Armstrong and struck fear in some of the greatest fighters of all-time.
Pryor soundly defeated fellow ring immortal Thomas Hearns in the 1976 National Golden Gloves Championship, and missed being an Olympic teammate of Sugar Ray Leonard after being edged by Howard Davis Jr. for a spot.
Pryor engaged in very memorable (and real) sparring sessions with the great Leonard while he prepared for Roberto Duran in 1980. According to credible reports not denied by Sugar Ray, Pryor decked and greatly troubled the all-world Leonard.
After stopping Antonio Cervantes in August 1980 to capture the WBA super lightweight title, Pryor remained bitter over not being able to secure a megafight with an elite peer.
Were it not for the tragic death of Mexican legend Salvador Sanchez, it is unlikely that Pryor would've even secured a superfight with Alexis Arguello (set to defend his lightweight title against Sanchez), who instead, attempted to become a four division world champion by challenging Pryor on November 12, 1982.
Pryor's breathtaking 14th round KO of Arguello was an epic, instant classic; notorious for disgraced trainer Panama Lewis demanding a bottle– “The one that I mixed”, to apparently energize Pryor before the 14th round.
Insulted and enraged over allegations of cheating in the aftermath, Pryor bludgeoned Arguello in a dominant September 1983 rematch via 10th round stoppage. But he was forever haunted by drug use and ultimately consumed by it.
When he mauled and successfully defended the newly formed IBF's super lightweight title in March 1985 against Matthew Hilton, Pryor had ran his record to 36-0 (32 KO's) but was already a shell of himself at just age 30.
With respect to Bobby Joe Young (who stopped Pryor in his return nearly two years later), he'd never beat “The Hawk” on his best day.
Because of his demons, the world was denied classic match-ups with greats such as Edwin Rosario, Hector Camacho, Pernell Whitaker and Julio Cesar Chavez.
Later in his life, Pryor spent considerable time in his native Cincinnati trying to warn kids and teens against the dangers of drug addiction.
But like his unforgettable saga with Arguello, Pryor will live on in boxing lore, having now passed as a legend of the fall.
RIP champ… And thank you.
–John Gatling (aka Taz) is a southpaw from Plainfield, NJ and the boxing opinionator lives in the Boston area. He was inspired by hometown heroes Harold “The Shadow” Knight and Glenwood “The Real Beast” Brown to get deeper into the fight game. Follow John on Twitter (@johngatling_) and Facebook (facebook.com/taznj)