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NHL Fighter Paul Stewart Sparred Aaron Pryor

By Scoop Malinowski

You learn something new every day. Today I learned a surprise – former Hall of Fame world champion boxer Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor actually trained with and sparred former NHL player Paul Stewart.

How did I learn this little known fact? Reading an article about NHL defenseman Barry Legge, the only man to fight New York Rangers Barry Beck and Nick Fotiu in the same game. The story mentioned Stewart had sparred Pryor. So I asked Paul if this was true and he responded with some details.

“I was playing for Cincinnati in the CHL (1979-80), formerly played for Cincinnati Stingers in the WHA (1977-1079)….my coach wasn’t playing me a lot so I went to find a gym as I had trained with Vinny Marino, former Boston area boxer who trained me when I was playing in the NHL and WHA…..I also trained in Philly at Joe Frazier’s gym when I was at U Penn. I started at the New Garden Gym in Boston with Bill Duffy when I was 12…I also trained with Marvin Hagler when he was training in Provincetown, MA. We were good friends….ran the Falmouth Road race together.”
“Vinny Marino’s thumbnail history:  Proprietor of the Brickhouse in Dedham, will be installed as a Lifetime Honorary Member of Ring 4. Vinny has contributed greatly to the success and existence of our organization and has always been there for us in many ways. He was a well-respected boxer who won the New England AAU Title. As a pro he compiled a record of 13-0 while serving as the personal sparring partner for the World Champion Benny ‘Kid’ Paret.”
“Back to Cincy…I was working out and Pryor liked that I was working hard as opposed to some who were just putting in time……Aaron wanted to spar with me, a big white guy (six foot one, 185 pounds) and a fast little black guy…I also sparred with Ali’s brother (Rudy Clay) at the same gym a few times. The manager of the gym wanted me to turn pro as a Cruiserweight division (over 175 and under 190) fighter.  I had a pro contact to play hockey and went back to the NHL that same year in November of ’79 (with Quebec Nordiques, scored two goals in 21 games and totaled 74 penalty minutes). I was a minority guy in the NHL….American, College and Prep School kid…not exactly what pro hockey was accepting…the ’80 Olympics changed a lot of minds after the US won the gold medal (in Lake Placid). That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”
Steward has vivid memories of being in the ring with prime Aaron Pryor, who won the WBA Junior Welterweight title on August 2, 1980 in Cincinnati at Riverfront Coliseum on network TV (CBS) with a sensational fourth round knockout win vs Colombian legend Antonio “Kid Pambele” Cervantes.
“Mostly, Pryor winded me from his quickness….I didn’t feel the need to knock out a world champion so I used the experience to help me in my hockey career. A few weeks after I started training at that gym I went to Boston and fought three Bruins (while playing for Quebec Nordiques), Thanksgiving night 1979) – the three Bruins were all renowned for their fistic notoriety: Stan Jonathan, Al Secord and Terry O’Reilly.
After his pro hockey career, Stewart became an NHL referee and authored a biography titled: ‘Ya Wanna Go?’



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