Memories Of A Champion: Alexis Arguello

October 3, 2010
By Ross Everett

Alexis Arguello, one of the greatest boxers to ever compete, was found dead in his Managua, Nicaragua home in early July of an apparent suicide. He was 57 years old. Arguello was the mayor of Nicaragua's capital city at the time of his death.

Known for his class outside the ring as much for his tenacity inside the ring, hes best known to casual fight fans for his epic war in'82 with Aaron The Hawk Pryor when he moved up in weight after dominating at lighter weight classes. Though Arguello would lose via--th round knockout (amid some controversy due to an apparent mystery drink offered to Pryor by his trainer Panama Lewis) it was a thrilling toe to toe battle that even the most knowledgeable boxing experts remember fondly to this day. Ring Magazine not only named it Fight of the Year, but later would dub it Fight of the Decade. Promoter Bob Arum offered these thoughts on Pryor/Arguello:

"It was a brutal, brutal fight. That was something I will never, ever forget as long as I live. That was one of the most memorable fights I ever did."

While the first Pryor fight may have brought him the most mainstream notoriety, boxing cognoscenti are aware that Arguello is arguably the best lightweight and junior lightweight in the history of the sport. Arguello never lost a fight at-0 pounds and would end his career with an astounding 82-8 record with 65 knockouts and championships in three different weight classes. At the time, he was only the sixth man in boxing history to hold title belts at three different weights.

Ironically, Arguellos career didn't get off to a good start and he lost his debut in'68 via first round TKO. After that, he seldom lost again and would go on to be respected as one of the best pound for pound fighters of his day. He was at his best against his toughest adversaries including Ray Mancini, Bobby Chacon and Ruben Olivares. Bob Arum remembered him not only as a great fighter, but as a great man:

"Not only was he one of the greatest fighters I've ever seen, he was the most intelligent fighter. He was a ring tactician. Every move was thought out. And he was a wonderful, wonderful person."

The articulate, intelligent Arguello was frequently quoted on the fight game and how champions should conduct themselves. Here, he speaks of his attitude toward his opponents:

"Of course after the fight you want to make sure that you're okay and so is the other guy, its a brotherhood in there, so you want to make sure everyone is okay after the war is over."

Arguello didn't fight for his first title until he'd had 58 fights, and would frequently admonish boxers who didn't show the same respect for the sport or their status as champion:

"When you won that title you should know now that you are representing a whole country or nation with your actions and you are now in a glass house or under a microscope and you better be ready to make your people proud."

Most significantly, Arguello loved boxing and sought to protect it from those who would undermine its greatness:

"I respect boxing because it has given me so much and thats why I will never allow anyone to mistreat the sport of boxing if I can help it."

While the modest Arguello would never say it himself, that was for from a one sided debt and he contributed more than his fair share to the sport of boxing with his grace, intelligence, talent and toughness.

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