One of the best pure punchers of my generation was Alexis Arguello. He was aptly nicknamed “The Explosive Thin Man,” because he was tall and rail thin yet his punch could stop an opponent dead in his tracks. It’s hard to believe that Arguello was stopped in the very first round of his pro debut in his native Managua, Nicaragua. He would rally to win three straight then lose again. Hardly the makings of a legend.
However Arguello would reel off twenty straight wins before his next loss. Then came thirteen more victories including knockouts over Octavio Gomez and Jose Legra. This led to a shot at the WBA featherweight title in 1974. The champion was the talented Ernesto Marcel of Panama. Arguello lost a fifteen round decision. Arguello would rebound to win four in a row including a stoppage win over rugged Art Hafey of Canada. He again challenged for the WBA featherweight title in 1974. His opponent this time would be the legendary Ruben Olivares. In a see saw battle Alexis took Ruben out in round thirteen and also took his title.
In 1978 Arguello moved up to 130 pounds to take on WBC junior lightweight champion Alfredo Escalera. In a brutal fight Alexis finally halted Escalera in the thirteenth round to annex that title. Arguello may go down as the best 130 pound champion in history. He would beat Escalera in a classic rematch. He would then go on to beat Bobby Chacon, Rolando Navarette, Bazooka Limon and Boza Edwards. All four would win a piece of the junior lightweight title after Alexis left the division.
Arguello would move up again and defeat Jim Watt to win the WBC lightweight title in 1981. He would defend that title four times. Among those defenses was his victory over future champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini. He also nearly decapitated the future trainer of Mike Tyson, Kevin Rooney in a non title fight.
Arguello seemed unbeatable and decided to move up in weight again to challenge WBA junior welterweight champion Aaron Pryor. Their November 12, 1982 bout in Miami was one of the most action packed bouts of all time. The fiery Pryor absorbed the bombs of Arguello and finally overwhelmed Alexis to score a savage knockout in the fourteenth round. What a fight it was! They would meet again and this time Pryor took Alexis out in ten.
It seemed like the end for Arguello but he fought on. Over a year later he would cold cock former champion Billy Costello in the fourth round. Arguello would not fight again for eight years. He would win one and then lose one. Realizing it was no longer there he retired for good. He ended his 90 bout career with an 82-8 record.
Arguello was a class act. He did not verbally assault his opponents. He was a true gentleman. He did what he had to do to win and he did it well. Very well.
In the words of former President Teddy Roosevelt, he “Talked softly but carried a big stick.” I think the stick was called his right hand.
Photo Alexis Arguello and Jim Amato
Filed under: Boxing