The history of boxing's great rematches often shows how fighters can adjust and respond to the toll of intervening months and years. But what was so striking about Aaron Pryor's 10th-round knockout of Alexis Arguello Friday night was how similar the pattern was to Pryor's victory 10 months ago in Miami.
Pryor and Arguello are both highly regarded fighters, and great anticipation surrounded their first fight on Nov. 12 in Miami. Both are capable of knocking out opponents with either hand. Pryor, 27, has never lost and has never gone the distance in his professional career. At 31, Arguello has lost some strength in his legs, yet he was strong enough to be established as the favorite.
Both fighters entered the ring at their best, and both left nothing to the imagination..
The difference, the reason Pryor emerged the winner with a 14-round technical knockout last year, was that while both fighters delivered their strongest punches, Pryor endured and Arguello could not.
In the 13th round Arguello hit Pryor in the face with two rights with the force of a jackhammer. Pryor shook his head a little, squinted and kept coming. It was the best Arguello could give.
Arguello would later say he returned to his corner, not believing the strength of his opponent. "I asked myself, 'What happened?' " He had met his superior.
The next round was a pure beating for Arguello, who leaned helplessly on the ropes. Overhand rights, left hooks, body shots--they all landed. The referee's waving hands were an act of mercy delayed.
Both fighters knew such a battle could not be without its encore. There was controversy. There were promises of how things would be different.
But Friday night was much the same, if a shade less brutal. Only 10 months and a few inconsequential tuneups had intervened.
Pryor won the first round big, knocking down Arguello with a right. Asked later if the knockdown brought back memories of the 14th round, Arguello said, "It's only natural."
Arguello, however, was a long way from giving himself up as a ghost. He won the second and third rounds with strong left hooks to the body and head. The crowd roared approval in Spanish and English to Arguello, the crowd favorite.
But the fourth round was reminiscent of the 13th in the first fight. Arguello intended to keep up his scoring, but now Pryor smiled at Arguello's punches. Pryor followed psychology with knuckles, and Arguello hit the canvas once more, the victim of a terrific right.
Wanting very much to become the first fighter ever to hold titles in four divisions, Arguello beat the count and continued. The vicissitudes of the fight followed the old pattern, however, with both fighters hitting and only Arguello getting weaker.
Arguello won the eighth round, but Pryor picked up the pace in the ninth and carried it over into the 10th. He now added a straight left to his overhand rights and Arguello's head snapped back and back and back like a speed bag. Finally, at 1:48 of the 10th, Arguello sank to the canvas and into retirement.
Only the round was different.