Forgotten Legends: Kenny Keene

By: Steve Gallegos

We at TheTitlefight.com are proudly headquartered out of Boise, ID and in this week’s segment, we salute one of our own. While Idaho doesn’t have a rich boxing history, there was one man who put Idaho on the map for boxing in the 1990’s. That man was KennyThe Emmett EliminatorKeene.

A hard nose, in your face kind of fighter. Keene was a fan favorite who was in a bloody war just about anytime he stepped into the ring. Keene was born and raised in Emmett, ID just outside of Boise. He had at very good amateur career as he went 86-21 while representing the U.S.A. in international events.

He turned pro in 1990 and won his first 24 bouts, 17 by KO. He fought mostly at home in the Boise area, providing his hometown fans with many thrills. He got his first shot at a title when he faced very tough journeyman Bobby Crabtree for the minor WBF Cruiserweight title.

The two met on 03/05/94 in Caldwell, ID and Keene was spectacualar in scoring a fourth round TKO. Two fights later, he took to the road and faced the very tough slugger Terry Ray. They met on 10/08/94 in Ray’s hometown of Terre Haute, IN and it would be Keene’s national debut as the bout was televised on CBS.

The two men were throwing bombs from the opening bell. Keene was able to keep the fight on the inside which gave him the advantage over the taller Ray. As the fight moved through the middle rounds, both men continued to land hard shots, however Keene had the advantage as he controlled the pace of the fight by keeping the fight on the inside. Keene also had the edge in jabs as he was able to gain leverage on his left jab when he threw it upwards while mixing in a vicious body attack.

The two men exchanged punches for the full 12 rounds and the end result would be a 12 round majority decision win for Keene and it was 1994’s “Fight of the Year”. Keene would return home to score a third round KO in his next fight and then he fought a rematch with Bobby Crabtree in Crabtree’s back yard of Arkansas.

Keene would get his first taste of defeat by dropping a split decision to Crabtree in what many called a hometown decision. Keene returned to Boise and two fights later, won a fifth round technical decision over Terry Ray in a rematch to claim the IBC Cruiserweight championship.

In July of 1996, Keene would go back to Bobby Crabtree’s home turf of Arkansas and would taste his first loss with a ninth round TKO over Crabtree. Keene would win his next two bouts by KO before landing a spot on a huge fight card when he faced former world champion Robert “The Preacherman” Daniels on 03/01/97 in Atlantic City.

It was the co-feature on a pay per view card headlined by “Sugar” Ray Leonard vs Hector Camacho. Keene performed very well on the biggest stage of his career by getting the better of Daniels in many exchanges and appeared to win the first seven rounds convincingly. Daniels was the bigger man with the bigger punch and he began to come on in the 8th-12 rounds.

Despite, Daniels’ late rally, it appeared Keene had did enough to win the decision; however the judges decided differently. The result was a close split decision win for Daniels. Later on that October, Keene would make his USA Tuesday Night Fights debut in Boise, ID. He was originally scheduled to face former 2 time world champion James “Lights Out” Toney, however Toney pulled out a week before the fight due to an injury; therefore he was replaced with tough Mexican challenger Saul Montana.

They met on 10/14/97 in front of a packed, electric crowd at the brand new Bank of America Center in Boise, ID. It was a big night of boxing in which a young, up and coming U.S. Olympian named Floyd Mayweather fought in the co-feature.

The fight was an exciting war which had lots of great moments. Keene had difficulty with the much taller Montana and wasn’t able to get off first as he is used to. The end result was a close unanimous decision win for Montana.

1998 would be a great year for Keene as he fought on ESPN 2 regularly, exposing himself to a national audience in impressive fashion. He began the year with an exciting 12 round decision over unbeaten Richard LaMontagne at the Bank of America Center in Boise. He would return to the same arena four months later when he faced the tough, exciting Rocky Gannon.

The two met on 05/15/98 and it was the first ever boxing match that “Your’s Truly” attended live. It was an exciting, bloody war for 11 rounds, before referee Mills Lane stopped the bout in the 11th round. Keene followed up this win with another exciting victory over another tough fighter in Dominick Carter just three months later. Keene would close out 1998 with a 10 round decision over Rod Bensonhaver in Boise, ID.

Keene would fight and win three times in 1999 all in Boise before calling it a career, however it wouldn’t be the end of Kenny Keene. He would return to the ring in February of 2002 in Boise, ID and he would return in impressive fashion, knocking out Tony Menefee in the second round.

Keene would go 3-0 from 2003-2006 and was in line for a world title shot. On 07/29/06, Keene met former world champion Arthur Williams on a Pay Per View card headlined by Roy Jones at the Qwest Arena in Boise, ID. Keene had a title shot guaranteed against Cruiserweight champion Virgil Hill who was sitting ringside commentating for the Pay Per View telecast.

Williams was a very skilled experience veteran who was able to dominate the fight with his height and jab. Keene pressed forward trying to force the fight, however he just couldn’t get off his shots. Williams would stop Keene in the 10th round. It was the end of a very exciting career for Kenny Keene. He would retire for good after that fight with an impressive record of 51-4 with 28 KO’s.

Today, Keene resides in Emmett, ID and owns a successful bail bonds business. While he wasn’t able to reach the next level of the elite, he definitely showed tremendous heart and passion for the sport of boxing. He was a true blood and guts warrior; therefore Mr Keene, we proudly salute you.

Rounds 1-4

Rounds 5-8

Rounds 9-12


[ic_add_posts tag=’Forgotten-Legends’]

Beyond the Ropes: Aaron Pryor

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By: Heath Harlem
Follow @PittGrad0214

Before 2013 winds down one of the biggest stories that boxing fans will be talking about is all of the star power in the junior welterweight division.  Danny Garcia, Lucas Matthysse, and Zab Judah are some of the most talented stars in the game, and warriors like Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado are wowing fans with their epic battles.  While this group of fighters may be one of most exciting in recent history, it is worth taking a look back at one of the divisons all time greats.  Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor posed the personality, star power, and talent of Garcia or Judah, along with the heart of Rios or Alvarado.  Pryor reigned as junior welterweight champion for 5 years and was voted by the associated press as the greatest 140lb fighter of the 20th century by the associated press in 1999.

Aaron Pryor was born in Cincinnati, OH on October 20, 1955.  Pryor didn’t begin boxing as a youth until he was 13 years old.  Pryor quickly found success and accumulated an amateur record of 204 wins and 16 losses.  Pryor became a 3 time national AAU champion (1973, 1975 and 1976) and in 1976 he beat Thomas Hearns in the finals.  Aaron was favored to make the Olympic team in 1976 but was upset in the trials by Howard Davis Jr. and was forced to serve as an alternate.  When the Olympics ended, Pryor turned pro and made his debut with a knockout victory on November 11, 1976.  A few days after his pro debut, Pryor signed to be managed by Buddy LaRosa owner of a pizza chain in the Cincinnati area.  This management arrangement turned out to have a drastic impact on Pryor’s career in the future.

Pryor’s career got rolling in 1977 when he fought 8 times, winning 6 by knockout.  After his second decision victory of 1977, Pryor went on to win the next 26 fights of his career by knockout.  On August 2nd, 1980 Pryor fought for the title for the first time against Antonio Cervantes in Aaron’s hometown of Cincinnati, OH.  The fight was broadcasted live on CBS and in the first round an overwhelmed Pryor was knocked down.  Showing the heart of a modern day warrior like Alvarado or Rios, “The Hawk” rose from the canvass and with the skill and power of a Danny Garcia ended the fight by knocking out his opponent in round 4, becoming Junior Welterweight Champion.  Pryor defended his title in November 1980 with a 6th round knockout of Gaetan Hart.  After the fight with Hart Pryor was offered a fight with Roberto Duran that would have paid him $750,000.  Pryor stalled before accepting the fight with Duran due to a contract issue with LaRosa and by the time the management issue was worked out, the opportunity to fight Duran was gone.

With the fight against Duran off of the table, Pryor continued to reign as champion making three title defenses in 1981 and 1982 before being offered a fight against Welterweight Champion Sugar Ray Leonard. The fight with Leonard was going to pay Pryor $750,000.  Pryor had the opportunity to fight Leonard sooner for $500,000 but him and his management team held out for the larger pay day.  Before Leonard was to face Pryor, Leonard had to defeat Roger Stafford in May of 1982.  While Leonard did defeat Stafford in their title fight, Leonard suffered a serious eye injury and the fight with Pryor was off.  With the fight with Leonard off, Pryor made a title defense Against Akio Kameda before he finally had his big money fight against Alexis Arguello.

Much like modern day Junior Welterweight’s Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios, on November 12, 1982 Aaron Pryor faced Alexis Arguello in the first of their two epic fights.  In front of almost 24,000 people Alexis and Aaron were in an all-out war for the first 13 rounds.  In the 13th round Argeullo was down on the scorecards when he stunned Pryor and took the momentum of the fight.  Between the 13th and 14th round, Pryor’s trainer, Panama Lewis was heard asking “give me the other bottle, the one I mixed”.  Pryor seemed revived in the 14th round, and knocked out Argeullo with a series of viscous power shots.  Many people suspected that there was an illegal substance in the bottle, but there was never any post fight drug testing completed.  Years later another fight trained by Lewis stated that Lewis would put antihistamine pills into the water bottles to help with lung capacity later in fights.  Despite all of the controversy, this great fight was named fight of the decade by ring magazine.  After defeating Sang-Hyun Kim on April 2, 1983, Pryor faced Arguello again on September 9, 1983.  For this fight Pryor was trained by Emanuel Steward after Lewis was suspended for removing padding from another fighter’s glove.  Pryor decisively defeated Arguello dominating the rematch from round 1, and ending the fight via knockout in the 10th round.  The dominating performance silenced many of the doubters who had concerns about the “water bottle” from the first fight.   However, after going through to “wars” together, Arguello and Pryor became friends for the rest of their lives.

After the 2nd Arguello fight, Pryor had a short lived retirement which he describes as a rest.  The IBF was recently formed and upon his return they immediately named him their Welterweight Champion.  Pryor’s first fight at Welterweight was to be against Ray Boom Boom Mancini but that fell through when Mancini was stopped by Livingston Bramble.  Pryor instead defended his title against Nick Furlan on June 22nd, 1984.  Pryor was a lopsided decision against Furlan.  However, this decision ended Pryor’s knockout streak.  In March of 1985 Pryor won a split decision against Gary Hinton, his last fight before his title would be stripped for failure to defend.  During the mid-1980’s Pryor became consumed by drug abuse and did not fight again until August 8th, 1987 when he was defeated by Welterweight journeyman Bobby Joe Young.  Pryor, addicted to drugs was a shell of his former self and fought only three more time over the next three years against three journeymen before finally retiring in 1990.  After arrests in his hometown that helped guide Pryor to the proper treatment, Pryor finally was able to kick the drug habit in 1993.  In 1996 Aaron Pryor was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and in 1990 he was named the greatest Junior Welterweight of the 20th century by the associated press.

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