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Good Night, Sweet Prince
Pat Putnam
September 19, 1983
After 15 glorious years, Alexis Arguello is hanging up his gloves because Aaron Pryor again KO'd his bid for a fourth title
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September 19, 1983

Good Night, Sweet Prince

After 15 glorious years, Alexis Arguello is hanging up his gloves because Aaron Pryor again KO'd his bid for a fourth title

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While Arguello seemed to have his act together. Pryor's life outside the ring became chaotic. On July 1 his trainer, Panama Lewis, was banned from boxing for allegedly tampering with the gloves of one of his fighters. Luis Resto. Pryor also became estranged from his wife, Theresa, who was already guaranteed a $500,000 slice of his purse. A court in Cincinnati awarded Buddy LaRosa, his erstwhile manager, another $750,000.

To replace Lewis, Pryor hired and fired Richie Giachetti, Larry Holmes's former trainer, who told Pryor what he thought and not what Pryor wanted to hear. Three times he tried to bolt from his promoter, Dan Duva, once after signing and then breaking a promotional contract with Sylvester Stallone. Pryor became angry when Stallone asked him to take a routine physical. Pryor thought the request was because of the widely circulated rumors of his use of cocaine. "I don't do the stuff that people have me doing," Pryor said. "I don't do drugs. I don't take dope. I don't stay up late. I don't let the talk perturb me. But my mother's tired of reading all this stuff about me. If I'm so bad, how come I've had 33 fights and won them all?"

In South Lake Tahoe, Nev. without a trainer, Pryor worked the way he fights, with whirlwind abandon. He would spar 14 rounds without headgear under a hot sun: then, battered and bruised, he would work harder the next day.

But even Pryor can take only so much punishment and pressure; on Aug. 19, complaining of a severe headache, he checked into a South Tahoe hospital, where Dr. John Harris, a neurosurgeon, took two CAT scans. "I don't find anything wrong." Dr. Harris told him. "Come and see me in a couple of weeks."

After leaving the hospital, Pryor decided he needed a steady hand at the helm. Less than two weeks before the fight, he called in Emanuel Steward, the trainer of champions Thomas Hearns (WBC junior middleweight) and Milton McCrory (WBC welterweight). After studying Pryor's battered face. Steward's first order was two days of rest.

Steward had picked Arguello to win both the first fight and the rematch. "That was based on what I was reading about the turmoil in Pryor's camp and the impression that he wasn't training," Steward said. "I didn't believe everything I heard about Pryor was a lie. I told Aaron I didn't want to be the man in the corner when he lost his title. My reputation was on the line. All I can say is that he has been beautiful. He's done everything I've asked. He's my kind of fighter."

During training sessions he made a few suggestions, and Pryor quickly adapted to them. "Emanuel thought I was going to lose this fight," Pryor said three days before the bout. "What better way to win the fight than to let him train me and show me how to change his mind. I'm going to win to prove to him that he was wrong. That gives me another kind of high."

Under the handling of Sanchez, Arguello was working with smaller but faster featherweights. "Why work with bigger fighters?" Sanchez said. "We know he can punch and take a punch. Speed and keeping his head are the keys. We have told him that if he loses his head this time, all is lost."

In the first fight, Arguello had done what everyone had warned him not to: He had fought Pryor in the trenches. His considerable boxing skills all but forgotten, he had turned into a slugger. His combinations are what made him a legend, but against Pryor he seldom was able to get off his combos.

The rematch battle plan called for Arguello to back up Pryor with hard right hands in the first round and then to pile up points with swift, stinging combinations. Among Arguello's 78 victories in 83 fights were 63 knockouts, but he had tested Pryor's chin in their first, meeting to no avail.

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