Alexis Arguello:The Iron Fist in the Velvet Glove
When you hear the name Alexis Arguello, how do you remember the late champion?
Do you remember him as El Flaco Explosivo (The explosive skinny man) or as El Caballero del Ring (The gentleman of the ring)?
You may remember him for his explosive punching power and speed. Or for his meekness and generosity in and out of the ring.
You cannot separate either from him. He personified both sides.
Sometimes it's hard imagining a ferocious fighter with a soft heart; a bomb throwing power-puncher with a sincere smile. Arguello would destroy an opponent and then embrace him afterward, apologizing for inflicting so much punishment.
At the start of his professional career, Arguello was no stranger to determination. He suffered a first round TKO in his debut in 1968.
Bent on continuing and not giving up, he triumphed by winning 36 of his next 38 fights. Such an impressive winning streak put him in line to face Featherweight champion Ernesto Marcel.
This was his first title bout. He lost the decision to Marcel in an impressive performance. Despite his loss, he continued and later got another shot against Marcel's successor, Ruben Olivares.
Olivares was ahead on the judges' scorecards in round thirteen when both fighters threw left hooks simultaneously.
Both hooks were packed with power, but Arguello's hook sent Olivares to the canvas. Then, after a few moments, Arguello was the new Featherweight champion of the world.
Out of respect, he went to Olivares' dressing room after the bout and got down on his knees and said, “I will defend this title with every drop of my blood.”
He was known and respected as a true sportsman. He went to the ring, did what he needed to do, then thanked his opponents for the great opportunity.
There are not many boxers I can think of who showed as much sportsmanship and humility as Arguello.
Thus, when the name Arguello is mentioned, I have to dub him “The Iron Fist With The Velvet Glove.”
Arguello vs. Escalera
After a few successful title defenses, Arguello moved up to the Junior Lightweight division to challenge title holder Alfredo Escalera.
This fight took place in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, and was later nicknamed "The Bloody Battle of Bayamon."
At the end, Arguello walked away holding Escalara's title and Escalara walked away with a damaged eye, busted mouth, and a broken nose.
Escalara later challenged Arguello to a rematch.
Arguello obliged him and defeated him again. Although he was the victor, Arguello suffered many cuts in his face.
The cuts were so bad that an on-site doctor insisted he have plastic surgery after the fight. However, because Arguello had a flight to catch, the doctor decided to travel with him to perform plastic surgery while he was awake.
He also defended his title against Bobby Chacon, Rafael "Bazooka" Limón, Ruben Castillo, Rolando Navarrete, and Diego Alcala.
Arguello then decided to move up again to challenge Jim Watt for his Lightweight title.
This fight lasted the entire fifteen rounds, but Arguello took the decision and became the Lightweight champion of the world.
With this victory, Areguello became the sixth boxer and the second Latin American to ever win titles in three divisions.
Arguello vs. Mancini
After facing other, less known opponents in the Lightweight division, Arguello met and defeated Ray Mancini in one of the most memorable bouts in history.
After the bout, Mancini was being interviewed and Arguello walked over and held Ray’s hand and embraced him, saying, “I love your father. That’s the most beautiful thing you have…I promise if I can do something for you, let me know, please...”
Arguello knew that Ray Mancini's father, Lenny was sitting at ringside. He knew that Lenny once had a dream of capturing the title himself years ago.
Lenny did not fulfill this dream because of his injuries subsequent to World War II. All Lenny wanted was for his son Ray to fulfill what he never had the opportunity to fulfill.
On the way out of the ring, he took Lenny’s hand and embraced Ray's mother, and said “I’m sorry, it’s my job...I love your son. He will be a world champion.”
Arguello vs. Busceme
Arguello then moved on to James "Bubba" Busceme.
He packed punishment onto Busceme, which led to a sixth round stoppage.
After the bout, he took Busceme’s head in his gloves and told him he wanted him to feel strong again. He wanted to "give him his pride back."
The day after their fight, Busceme was celebrating his 30th birthday when Arguello showed up with a cake. Although he had just gave this man one of the harshest beatings of his career, he still took the time to bring him cake.
Arguello vs. Pryor
In an attempt to become the world champion in four different weight classes, Arguello moved up to challenge Aaron Pryor for his title.
This bout, called "The Battle of the Champions," was one of the most action-packed bouts in history. Although Arguello put up a good fight against Pryor, he was stopped in the fourteenth round.
Much controversy arose from that bout due to a mysterious water bottle Pryor's trainer, Panama Lewis asked for between rounds.
At certain times during the bout, Pryor seemed to gain bursts of energy out of nowhere although he was throwing several shots back to back.
Since the Florida State Boxing Commission never administered a post-fight urinalysis, it was never officially determined if there was any substance that contributed to Pryor's energy and victory.
Years later, in an interview on HBO's "Legendary Nights," Pryor said Arguello came to him and asked if there was something in his bottle. He said that this was what made him take the second fight. He wanted to prove to Arguello that he could beat him with his own strength.
In their second fight, Pryor issued the same type of punishment to Arguello and knocked him out in the tenth round.
At that point, Arguello decided to retire. He said, “I'm not going to fight anymore, I quit."
But like many other fighters, Arguello returned to the ring.
He achieved a notable fourth round stoppage of former World Junior Welterweight Champion Billy Costello in 1986. He was elected to the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in 1992 and retired for good in 1995 with an impressive record of 82 wins, eight losses, and 65 KO's.
He died on July 1, 2009, after allegedly shooting himself through the heart in Managua, according to a police reports.
He will always be remembered for his gallant wars in the ring and he will always be respected for his kind heart.