A Pugilist and a Gentleman: Remembering Alexis Arguello

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A Pugilist and a Gentleman: Remembering Alexis Arguello
(Photo by Getty Images)

With the shocking news on July 1 of Alexis Arguello's unfortunate and untimely death the world of boxing lost not only one of its greatest fighters but one of its nicest guys.

The history of boxing is and always has been a sport filled with brutality and bravado.  The strongest and the loudest find a way to rise above the rest to get noticed, but every so often you get a fighter who possesses both the skill and personality which elevates them to a whole different level altogether.

Agruello was one of those few.

The boxer known as El Flaco Explosivo or The Explosive Thin Man was born in Nicaragua's capital city of Managua.  It was there he would be introduced to boxing and eventually in 1968, at the age of 16, would make his professional debut which resulted in him getting TKO'd in the first round.  Quite the humble start for such a humble man.

Arguello would continue to fight in his hometown and win 35 of his next 38 bouts there, most wins coming inside the distance.  In 1974 Arguello would fight outside of his native Nicaragua for the chance to pick up the WBA world featherweight championship against Panama's Ernesto Marcel. 

After 15 grueling rounds Marcel retained his title with a unanimous decision.  Arguello would go back home to Managua with his held high and Marcel would go on to retire as he had promised.

Later that year Arguello would get another crack at the title against Ruben Olivares in what would be the first of many of his fights in America. 

During 13 rounds of back and forth action in front of over 14,000 fans in Inglewood, CA, Arguello would survive some shaky moments to drop Olivares twice en route to a TKO victory.  This time, the 22 year old would go back home to Nicaragua as a champion.

Over the next two years Arguello would successfully defend his title before moving up in weight to the super featherweight division where in 1978 he would travel to Puerto Rico to challenge for Alfredo Escalara's WBC championship.

The bout would end on a cut resulting in Arguello getting the TKO stoppage in the 13th round, thus making his a two division champ. 

In 1979, once again Arguello would fight in Inglewood, CA where after six rounds he would find himself behind on the scorecards against local hero Bobby Chacon.

Arguello would open up a huge gash at the corner of Chacon's right eye.  In the seventh and final round Chacon would have to take a standing eight count before the doctor stopped the fight.

After a few more defenses of that title Arguello would once again opt to move up in weight and in 1981 would pick up the WBC lightweight title against Jim Watt in London. The 15 round unanimous decision victory would make the Managua native a three-division world champion.

His initial defense would come at Bally's in Atlantic City against the crowd pleasing Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini where Mancini would find himself on the receiving end of a big right cross in the 12th and a barrage of punches in the 14th would bring an end to the bout.

In 1982 Arguello would yet again move up a weight class and attempt to become the first fighter to win titles in four different weight classes as he challenged Aaron "Hawk" Pryor in what would turn out to be one of the more infamous battles in the history of the sport.

In a close and hotly contested bout controversy arose in the corner of Pryor when trainer Panama Lewis would request that Pryor drink out of 'black bottle.' Lewis could be heard calling for "the one he mixed."

Seeing as though water is the only liquid allowed to be consumed by the fighter during a bout and there's no need to mix water with more water many cried foul.  The future hall-of-famer Pryor would go on to get the TKO win in the 14th.

The local boxing comission in Miami where the bout was held did not perform a post-fight urinalysis leaving many questions about the bottle and tactics of Lewis unanswered. 

A year later the two would meet again, this time at Ceasar's Palace in Las Vegas, NV.  Once again it would be a brutal contest with Argullo once again being stopped.  This time in the tenth.  After the fight a dejected Arguello would go on to say that he was done with the sport. 

Unfortunately for him, his finances kept that from becoming a reality as he laced up the gloves again two years later in 1985.  He would stop Pat Jefferson in the fifth round and then four months later take care of Billy Costello in the fourth.

The Explosive Thin Man was elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992 along with Max Schmelling and Ken Norton among others. 

Two years after being inducted Alexis would again return to the ring for a brief comeback as he won a majority decision over Jorge Palomares and in 1995 dropped a unanimous decision to Scott Walker in what would be the final fight of a legendary career which officially stands at 82-8.

In retirement Arguello was able to remain a familiar face in his country of Nicaragua as he was active in the political arena with the Sandinista National Liberation Front.  In 2004 he was elected as Vice-Mayor in his hometown of Managua.

Just last November he ran for Mayor against longtime politician Eduardo Montealegre.  In true Alexis Arguello fashion he would get the win in a hard fight taking just over 51 percent of the votes.

Last year the country honored the great champion as they made him their flag-bearer in the opening ceremony of Beijing's 2008 Summer Games. 

Things seemed to be looking good for the boxer turned Mayor.

Until reports came out on this week that he had been killed from a gunshot wound to the heart which some are now speculating was self-inflicted.  Results from the autopsy have not yet been released.

With the shocking passing of The Explosive Thin Man, Arguello, people will remember him as the legendary three division champion he was.  Some will always recall him against Aaron Pryor and the 'black bottle' incident.  Others will remember the smiling mayor of Managua. 

But everyone will remember him as a gentleman.


Questions or comments can be mailed to: brianoblake@yahoo.com

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