This Week In Boxing History: The Hawk Is Down… But Gets Back Up

By Independence day 1982, Aaron Pryor had already established himself as among the best pound for pound fighters in the world. He had already held the WBA 140-pound strap for two years. Winning it from the legendary Antonio Cervantes in the summer of 1980 via fourth-round knockout. A fight in which the young Pryor was floored in the opening round. A fight that saw the Hawk have to bite down and come back and rally in. No one, and I mean no one, was expecting this to be the case in his defense against the lightly regarded but undefeated Japanese prospect called Aiko Kameda.

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Pryor had catapulted himself to superstar status compiling a perfect 30-0 (28) record and was being “ducked” by Sugar Ray Leonard. Pryor had made five defenses of his WBA strap. The Hawk was becoming a fan favorite in Cincinnati and throughout the world and being primed for a megafight with Alexis Arguello which would happen after he made easy work of the little-known challenger. Aiko Karmeda had accumulated a record of 17-0 (14) accumulating this record mostly off of low-level opposition. This was his first fight in 1982 and in ’81 he fought twice against opponents with a combined record of 31-19-4. Capturing the Japanese welterweight title and beating opponents with a barely over .500 record was going to do very little to prepare him for the beast he was about to face in Aaron Pryor in the beasts own backyard.

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The stage in Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum was set. Pryor was going tp absolutely light up Kameda and then Pryor’s Cincinnati faithful was going to light up the sky and party on the 4th of July. Everyone was expecting fireworks and it was fireworks we got in the opening round. Just not what anyone was expecting. The Hawk came out flying as expected as if fired out of a cannon he attacked the Japanese challenger. Kameda, a southpaw, was uncomfortable, covering up and going backward immediately. Pryor was looking to end the night and start the Independence Day party immediately, and then lightning struck, a right hook and a straight left caught The Hawk out of nowhere and put him to the ground. Pryor jumped back up and tried to get on the attack but the ref jumped in and administered the mandatory eight count. Pryor was more shocked than hurt but Kameda confirmed to Pryor that “oh you’re gonna be in a fight”

The fight as we became accustomed to with Aaron Pryor was going to produce fireworks. Following the knockdown, Kameda did a very good job of avoiding the wild power shots and scoring with some right-hooks and straight lefts. Mostly going backward Kameda was having some decent success early despite Pryor dropping Kameda with a single perfectly placed right hand and dropping the challenger again at the end of the second. Kameda got back to his feet and stuck to it, avoiding becoming prey for The Hawk. Throughout the remainder of the fight, there was an ebb and flow of Kameda trying to box from the outside using his southpaw stance and long reach to his advantage and avoid a fight on the insight and Hawks overwhelming aggression that would sucker the Japanese challenger into combustion in the center of the ring. Pryor’s aggression combined with Kameda’s chin made for an entertaining fight but probably not what the challenger blueprinted.  As with everything, there are levels to this, and that began to emerge. Pryor began to wear down Kameda and by the sixth round the bounce in Kameda’s step was gone and he could no longer have success from the outside becoming food for The Hawk. The challenger was backed into the ropes and took a knee due to a barrage of right hands from The Hawk. Courageously getting to his feet Kameda, was quickly dropped again. Rising to his feet one last time Pryor again jumped on his injured foe, partially landing big power shots and f catching Kameda with one last big right hand that sent him reeling and the referee in to do his duty and stop the fight.

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Pryor went on to legendary success and is always mentioned among the best fighters at the Jr Welterweight and welterweight divisions. The win over Kameda set up his next fight, a legendary battle against Alexis Arguello an unforgettable 13+ rounds of warfare that remains today as perhaps the best 140-pound fight ever. Pryor would win four more times including a close split- decision victory over veteran opponent Gary Hinton that caused Pyror to temporarily retire with a record of 36-0 (31). Pryor would return after a year and a half hiatus from the ring and suffered his lone defeat in his comeback fight losing to Bobby Joe Young in a welterweight fight. Pryor would go on against lesser opposition and retire for good with a record of 39-1 (35). For Kameda, the game effort against the legendary champ did not much to catapult his career, prior to fighting Pryor Kameda never fought outside of Asia and after the game loss, he went back to fighting predominantly in Asia never capturing a world title. Kameda earned one last world title shot, traveling outside of Asia for just the second time of his career and being stopped by Terry Marsh for the IBF’s version of the 140 pound title in the UK.

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