Alexis Arguello was stylish inside the ring and out. His tall, lean physique belied explosive knockout power and made him a deadly foe in the lower weight divisions where he ruled through the late Seventies and early Eighties. The handsome Nicaraguan started young, turning pro at just 16 like many of his Latino contemporaries, and suffered two early defeats that would have deterred lesser men.
But as Arguello grew into a man, his power developed. He cultivated a lancing jab and heavy left hook and used his considerable height and reach to maximum advantage before unleashing searing uppercuts and a devastating right cross. Arguello was methodical like a surgeon and wore a bored countenance in the ring that masked his intentions.
Born on April 19, 1952 in Managua, Arguello turned pro in November 1968 and racked up a long sequence of wins in his native Nicaragua before challenging Ernesto Marcel for the WBA featherweight crown in Panama City, losing narrowly on points in February 1974. Marcel promptly retired and was succeeded by Mexican hero Ruben Olivares, but Arguello was not to be denied and, trailing on points, came back to stop the powerful Olivares in the 13th round to become champion in November 1974.
Unsurprisingly, given his freakish height for a featherweight, weight-making became a difficulty, so he stepped up in weight after four defences to crush established WBC super-featherweight champion Alfredo Escalera, again in the 13th round, in Bayamon, Puerto Rico in January 1978.
But Arguello suffered badly when the Marxist Sandanistas took power in Nicaragua in the early 1980’s and had his property and accounts seized, forcing him to emigrate to the United States. “The Explosive Thin Man” would later fight as a Contra rebel following the death of his brother before returning home after the Marxists were overthrown.
Back in the ring, weight-making again proved a problem and Arguello moved up once more after defending his second crown eight times against hard men like Bazooka Limon, Bobby Chacon, Ruben Castillo, Arturo Leon and Escalera (again). Only Leon managed to last the distance.
Arguello duly won the WBC lightweight crown with a lopsided decision over Scottish southpaw Jim Watt in London in June 1981 and became the first fighter to win titles in three different weight divisions since the legendary Henry Armstrong.
But Alexis finally met his match when he stepped up to light-welterweight to fight the relentless WBA champion Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor. Between them, Pryor and Arguello exchanged almost 250 punches in the first round alone and set the pace for one of the greatest fights in boxing history. Arguello suffered a cut in the sixth, but shook Pryor time and again, but the champion just would not fall. Eventually, Pryor drove Arguello to the ropes in the 14th where he unleashed a terrifying assault prompting the referee to save the stunned Nicaraguan from further punishment. Arguello was stopped again in the rematch and after a few ill-conceived comebacks was never the force of old, but at his best the graceful Nicaraguan was one of the greatest of all time.
Alexis Arguello: Fights 88, Wins 80 Losses 8 (Knockouts 64).
By Mark G. Butcher