Gone But Never To Be Forgotten, Alexis Arguello, "The Explosive Thin Man" Dead At 57

boxingby James Slater - As most fight fans will have no doubt read by now, the great Alexis Arguello, arguably the finest fighter to have ever come out of Nicaragua, died a few hours ago. Though autopsy reports have still to be made public, early reports suggest the 57-year-old committed suicide by shooting himself through the heart whilst at home. This is tragic news indeed, and tributes will doubtless be pouring in from all corners of the globe very soon.

Born in Managua, Nicaragua on April 19th, 1952, Arguello turned pro in 1968, and soon became known by the nickname of "El Flaco Explosivo" or "The Explosive Thin Man." Actually losing in his pro debut (via a 1st-round TKO at the hands of Cachorro Amaya), the teenager made his way up the featherweight ranks soon afterwards (although Arguello did also lose his fifth fight, on points). Eventually getting to 36-3, Arguello then challenged Panama's Ernesto Marcel for the WBA 126-pound crown. Fighting in the defending champion's home country in February of 1974, Arguello went home without the title due to losing a 15-round unanimous decision. It was Marcel's last fight..

Refusing to lose heart, the 22-year-old regrouped and earned his second shot at the WBA crown. After winning four straight, Arguello challenged Marcel's successor, Mexican great Ruben Olivares. Fighting at The Forum in Inglewood, California, Arguello, a superb boxer and a dangerous puncher, stopped Olivares with a sensational 13th-round KO. Now world champion, Arguello successfully defended his belt four times, wining each defence by KO. Then, in 1978, Alexis moved up to 130-pounds and won the WBC title with a cuts-enforced stoppage in the 13th round over Alfredo Escalera of Puerto Rico.

Eight retentions of his second world title followed, and Arguello met some great fighters. Beating top names of the ring such as Rafael "Bazooka" Limon, Bobby Chacon and Ruben Castillo during this period (and also beating Escalera in a rematch), Arguello sealed his greatness. Moving up in weight yet again, Arguello travelled to London to challenge WBC lightweight king Jim Watt. The Scot bravely lasted the full 15-rounds (retiring from the ring afterwards), but the Nicaraguan legend was now a three-time world champion. Four retentions followed, including the famous stoppage win over the up-and-coming Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini, before Arguello engaged in what is arguably his most famous fight of all.

Now 77-5, the 29-year-old moved up to go for his fourth world title in as many weights, when he met the gifted Aaron "The Hawk" Pryor in Miami, Florida on November 12th, 1982. A fight of epic proportions followed!

Two of the best pound-for-pound fighters of their era going at it, Pryor and Arguello put on a fight for the ages. The bout must be seen to be believed, and surely enough has been written about this great battle already. Thrown into the depths of legend afterwards due to the now infamous "black bottle" incident - where Pryor's corner-man, Panama Lewis, was caught on film asking between rounds 13 and 14 for the "special bottle, the one I mixed," - Arguello's subsequent 14th-round TKO loss was somewhat overshadowed. Suddenly energized in that 14th-round after having appeared fatigued previously, "The Hawk" sensationally pinned the challenger on the ropes and blasted him with unanswered shots.

The controversy grew, and a rematch was ordered.

What was in the black bottle, if anything other than water, no-one knew, due to the fact that no post-fight urinary analysis had been done in Florida. The return bout was anticlimactic and Arguello, by now past his best and likely faded due to the brutal loss he'd suffered ten months ago, was stopped in the 10th-round in Las Vegas.

Afterwards, the 31-year-old announced he would fight no more. But Alexis did come back, two years later. Winning one fight in '85 and another in '86, Arguello then retired again, only to make a shocking comeback as a 42-year-old in 1994. The veteran won a decision in August that year, before retiring for good the following January after a points loss to Scott Walker.

Subsequently and deservingly elected into The Hall of Fame, Arguello's final record reads a mightily impressive 82-8(65). All told, Alexis was only ever stopped four times.

Arguello went into politics after retiring from the ring, and he was cherished as a national hero in Nicaragua. He will be sorely missed.

Article posted on 01.07.2009

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