Remembering Arguello as an All-Time Great and Class Act

July 7, 2009

The sudden death of Alexis Arguello at age 57 this past week is sad news for boxing fans everywhere. Arguello was the recently-elected mayor of his hometown Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua. Reports have suggested that he committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest after another bout with depression, although considering his involvement in politics, any such conclusions should be viewed with some skepticism.

Arguello was a larger than life figure in Nicaragua, and he carried his country's flag just last year at the 2008 Olympic Games. His heroic status was similar to that of Manny Pacquiao's in the Philippines.

Arguello was known as "The Explosive Thin Man" and his 65 career KOs attest to his punching power. At 5'10" he was taller than his opponents and he fought with an upright stance while using his 72" reach to technically dismantle opponents. Arguello's power punches came from all angles and he could end a fight equally well with a right hand, left hook, or uppercut. Unafraid to take punishment, Arguello would often take fights into the later rounds before landing the finishing blow.


Arguello won the WBA Featherweight Title at the age of 22 with a 13th Round KO over Hall of Famer Ruben Olivares. He defended the title until he moved up in 1978 to capture the WBC Super Featherweight Title with a 13th Round TKO over Alfredo Escalera.

Arguello defended the title numerous times, most notably scoring a 7th round TKO over Hall of Famer Bobby Chacon, before moving up to 135 pounds. In 1981, he won the WBC Lightweight World Title. A few months later, he knocked out Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini in the 14th Round later that same year in a highly publicized bout.

Arguello held the 135 pound title until he decided to move up in weight one last time to 140 pounds in late 1982. It was the third weight class he would leave without ever having lost his title.

On November 12, 1982 Arguello faced Hall of Famer Aaron Pryor for the Light Welterweight Title. Arguello was attempting to become the first fighter ever to win titles in 4 different weight divisions. Pryor scored a brutal 14th Round TKO in the bout which Ring Magazine later recognized as "The Fight of the Decade."

The fight was non-stop action with both fighters throwing power punches throughout. At times it appeared that Pryor's superior hand and foot speed would be too much for Arguello. Nonetheless Arguello displayed a tremendous chin and kept moving forward, landing his most significant blows of the fight in the 12th and 13th rounds.

After the 13th, Pryor's corner man Panama Lewis asked that a special liquid that he "mixed" be given to Pryor. Pryor came out storming in the 14th round and battered Arguello until he was out on his feet. Arguello took 23 consecutive punches while defenseless against the ropes before the referee stepped in.

Arguello retired after a more one-sided 10th round knockout loss to Pryor in their rematch. He made several brief and uneventful returns to boxing before finally retiring for good in 1995.

Arguello was inducted into International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992. In 1999, the AP voted him the greatest Junior Lightweight and the 6th best Lightweight of the 20th Century.


Arguello was initially a supporter of the anti-government Contras in his home country. In 1979, the Sandinista government had seized his assets and Arguello, who lived in Miami, became a symbol for exiles of all countries (especially anti-Castro Cubans) who were battling with their governments. After his first retirement in 1982, Arguello went so far as to take up arms against the government. Eventually however, his experiences with the Contras left him bitter and disillusioned.

Amazingly, in 2004 Arguello was elected vice-mayor of Managua as a candidate for the same Sandinista party he had fought against in the 1980's. In November 2008, he became mayor of Nicaragua's capital city, an office he held until his death on July 1, 2009.


He was known as "El Caballero del Ring" or "The Ring's Gentleman", but Alexis Arguello was a class act both inside and out of the ring.

This reputation was not the result of living a perfect life. Arguello struggled through issues with drugs, depression, and several failed marriages that were well known. However, Arguello will be known for the way he treated so many people with kindness when victorious, and the dignity he showed in defeat, both in his professional and private life.

After knocking out Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini in the 14th Round of their title bout, Arguello immediately gave Mancini his condolences for the death of his father and offered to do anything he could to help. Mancini reportedly stated recently, "After fighting him, I knew that I would be world champion, because I knew what it took. But more than anything I knew how to be a champion and how to act like a champion."

After two devastating knockout losses to Aaron Pryor, who came into the ring taunting and trash-talking, Arguello immediately spoke of Pryor's greatness and referred to him as "my friend, Aaron Pryor."

Despite suggestions that Pryor may have taken some illegal stimulant before the last round of their epic first fight, Arguello openly proclaimed that he believed Pryor when he professed innocence. After his career was over, Arguello asked Pryor to help campaign with him in Nicaragua and the two remained friends until the end.

Arguello was a rare athlete whose force of personality made him even bigger than the sport he excelled at. A rare sight indeed.

Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for


  1. The Pryor brawl will never be forgotten. both men showed enormous heart. Arguello was a once in a lifetime gentlemen rarely seen in today's sportsworld. the writer gave a great tribute.

  2. and i don't believe that suicide bulls**t. who commits suicide by shooting themself in the CHEST? That was a hit, straight up.


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