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Boxing History

Alexis “The Thin Man” Arguello: A Class Act in and Out of the Ring

By: Ken Hissner

This writer once had the privilege of meeting the great 3-time world champion Alexis “The Thin Man” Arguello, of Managua, Nicaragua, in Atlantic City, NJ, as he was preparing to fight Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini in 1981. He fought in Atlantic City four times during his career.

This writer had a picture taken with Arguello along with Bethlehem, PA, lightweight Bobby Johnson and his trainer Ernie Butler. Butler was also the trainer of Larry “Easton Assassin” Holmes prior to Don King getting involved. I was given a signed picture by Arguello. He mentioned during the week of the Mancini fight how he sat alone with a military field jacket on in a chair with his leg’s straight out. All of a sudden here comes Mancini busting through a double door with his entourage!

Mancini prior to the fight talked about how Arguello was one of his boxing idols and he did make a good account of himself. He was only behind 127-122, 127-125 and 125-123 going into the fourteenth round of the scheduled fifteen round bout in October of 1981.

Agruello won the WBC World Lightweight title in his previous fight defeating Scotland’s southpaw Jim Watt, then 38-7, over fifteen rounds at the Empire Pool, in Wembley, London, UK, in June of 1981. Watt would retire from boxing after this defeat.

It was his fifth title defense for Watt. In his two previous two fights in 1980 he defeated 1976 Olympic Gold Medalist and Val Barker winner (most outstanding boxer) Howard Davis, Jr. 13-0, over fifteen rounds in June. He defeated Sean “Bubble Gum Kid” O’Grady, then 73-1, in November by TKO 12 due to an ugly gash requiring 11 stitches. Both fights were in Glasgow, Scotland.

Arguello after winning his first three fights turning professional at the age of sixteen in Managua, Nicaragua, lost back to back bouts in 1969. He was stopped in four rounds by Omar Amaya making his debut and who never fought again. The following month the next loss was to Oscar “Alacran” Espinosa, 0-1, who Arguello had defeated in his second fight. Both fights were split decisions. Espinosa didn’t fight again for five years. It makes one wonder that both Nicaraguan boxers never fought again and the other not for five years about the punishment they may have taken from Arguello.

In Arguello’s next fight five months later he traveled to San Jose, Costa Rica, for the only fight outside of Nicaragua in his first thirty-four fights. That would have been in Panama when he fought for the WBA World Featherweight title losing to champion Panama’s Ernesto Marcel, 39-4-2, by decision over fifteen rounds. Would you believe Marcel retired from boxing after that fight?

Arguello would go onto win his next sixteen fights, thirteen by stoppage after suffering the back to back losses. He would lose for a third time due to an injured hand and a cut to Jorge Reyes, 7-6, of Mexico in the sixth round of a scheduled ten rounds. Reyes never returned to Nicaragua and would go onto lose six of his next seven bouts before retiring. His losses were to opponents with a combined record of 158-36-11. His win was over a 9-9-1 boxer.

Arguello would earn the world title fight with Marcel by defeating such boxers as Kid Pascualito, 81-25-19, of Paraguay and Cuban Jose “Pocket Cassius Clay” Legra, 129-10-4, living in Spain. Both by stoppages. Five months after Marcel’s retirement fighting for the vacant title would be Ruben “El Puas” Olivares, 75-4-1, of Mexico and Zensuke Utagawa, 25-4-2, of Japan, with Olivares scoring a seventh round knockout.

Four months after winning the WBA World Featherweight title Olivares would make his first defense against Arguello at the Inglewood Forum in California losing his title by thirteenth round knockout. He would go onto defend his title four times with over ten non-title wins.

Next up for Arguello would be the WBC World Super Featherweight title in champion Alfredo Escalera’s home town. He was one of the dirtiest fighters in boxing. Arguello had him down in the second round and all cut up so that by the thirteenth round Arguello would be crowned the “new champion!”

After one non-title fight and two defenses Arguello would lose in a non-title fight to Vilomar Fernandez, 22-6-2, in ten rounds. He would be victorious in four non-title fights and five title defenses before moving up to lightweight for his third division world title. In those five defenses he defeated Bobby “School Boy” Chacon, 42-4-1, and Ruben Castillo, 46-0, by stoppage.

In order to win that WBC lightweight title he would travel to Wembley, UK, and defeat southpaw Jim Watt, 38-7, of Scotland, who retired from boxing after that defeat. He would go onto score five straight knockouts with the last one being the only non-title bout over Kevin Rooney, 19-1. The title defenses were over Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, 20-0, Roberto Elizondo, 23-1, James Busceme, 27-3, and Andy Ganigan 34-3.

In moving up to fight for the WBA World Super Lightweight title he had to take on the undefeated and dangerous Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor, 31-0. He was behind on two of the scorecards and stopped in the fourteenth round. Pryor’s trainer Panama Lewis asked for the “black bottle” which Don Elbaum mixed for them. It contained something to give Pryor super power.

In between rematches Arguello avenged his loss to Vilomar Fernandez. Then came the second fight with Pryor who was just too big for Arguello who was knocked out in the tenth round. Arguello then took a year off before returning to the ring in of all places Alaska where he stopped Pat Jefferson, 24-5, in five rounds. Then moved up to welterweight stopping former super lightweight champion Billy Costello, 31-1, in four rounds.

Arguello attempted to come back after six and a half years winning a majority decision over Jorge Polomares, 8-12-1. He should have realized he no long was the fighter he once was. In his next and final fight he lost by decision to Scott “The Pink Panther” Walker, 17-3-1, cousin to 1976 Olympian Chuck “White Chocolate” Walker.

Arguello ended up 77-8 with 62 knockouts, in January of 1985. In 1992 he was inducted into the IBHOF. He was also inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame. Lupe Sanchez and the legendary Eddie Futch were his trainers.

In 1994 Ring Magazine named Arguello “The Greatest Junior Lightweight of all-time”. In 2002 they named him the “Eighth Greatest Featherweight of all-time”. In July of 2009 it was reported he died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest. From 1998 to 2001 he would serve as a boxing judge traveling to five different countries. On a trip to a boxing event in New York after this I would end up sitting next to his son.

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