By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
Muhammad Ali, AKA ‘The Greatest’ was heavyweight champion of the world. Aaron Pryor Jr., AKA ‘The Hawk’, was the junior welterweight champion of the world. Ali and Pryor, now gone, were two of boxing’s greats from the era gone by. Ali was charismatic. Pryor was flamboyant. Together, Ali and Pryor gave the sport of professional boxing the great attention it needed to keep it in the public eye.
As Pryor explained on Cincinnati.com several days after Ali died, “I had racked up a 24-0 professional record but had not yet fought a championship bout for a title. Yet here was Muhammad Ali Sports wanting to promote a boxing match in Cincinnati at Riverfront Coliseum with me headlining the show. Ali was going to give me my opportunity to become a champ. You could have knocked me down. Ali’s newly formed company had an idea in mind for a two city televised co-promotion. I would fight a guy named Antonio Cervantes for the WBA World Jr. Welterweight championship here in Cincinnati, and an equally determined Thomas Hearns would fight Pipino Cuevas in Detroit for a full day of televised championship boxing. This was it. All those years of hard work and never giving up had finally paid off. Ali was going to give me an opportunity to become champ. I promised Ali Sports I would deliver a win, and win I did. On August 2, 1980, I fulfilled Ali’s promise….if a boxer worked hard and never gave up then they could be a champ too. I had come full circle with Muhammad Ali. I was on my way.”
Pryor finished “I was saddened with Ali’s passing but so grateful to have had him as a mentor throughout my life. There will never be another Muhammad Ali. He believed in me when no one else did, and while the world will be a little dimmer without his shining light, we will never forget a guy from Louisville who believed that anything was possible. Anything.”
On June 3, 2016, Muhammad Ali died in Scottsdale, Arizona. Aaron Pryor died at home from heart disease on October 9, 2016, in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Hawk, like The Greatest, could talk. Pryor’s personality leaped out of the television, His two epic matches with Alexis Arguello will be forever famous. In later life, the two became best friends. While neither will rise again, Ali and Pryor will live on forever in the hearts of boxing fans.