Former World Lightweight Champion Jim Watt Pays Tribute To The Man Who Took His Title; The Late Alexis Arguello

by James Slater - Fight fans the world over are still getting over the shocking news that told them ring legend Alexis Arguello had passed away yesterday. Seemingly taking it even worse than the fans are fellow fighters themselves, either active or retired - with Nonito Donaire and Oscar De La Hoya, for two, having spoken of their grief and sadness at the Nicaraguan's death at the young age of 57.

One man who actually shared a ring with the great fighter known as "The Explosive Thin Man" is Scotland's Jim Watt, the former WBC lightweight champion.. Watt lost his title to Arguello when he was out-pointed by his challenger in London in 1981. Watt retired after the fight, never to lace on the gloves again.

Today a respected commentator for Sky Sports, Watt spoke recently to excellent British boxing writer Ron Lewis of The Times.

Upset and as shocked as the rest of us at Arguello's untimely death, the man who lost a 15-round decision to the fallen warrior spoke from the heart whilst paying tribute to him.

"He was the hardest man I ever fought and one of the nicest men I ever met," Watt said of Arguello. "I do know he had a history of problems in his personal life. Sometimes boxers struggle to get over the highs they get in their careers and he couldn't have got any higher as a boxer. He was a three-weight world champion at a time when there weren't so many champions around. And he never lost any of the titles, he gave them up to move on to the next challenge. He will be remembered as a legend, but he was a legend when he was still with us."

Watt defended his WBC 135-pound title against Arguello in June of 1981. Despite the all too obvious talents his visiting challenger possessed, the soon-to-be 33-year-old Watt was convinced he'd be able to beat Arguello and successfully defend his crown for a fifth time.

"When you are world champion, you think you can beat anybody and I'd already beaten a couple of guys in Howard Davies and Sean O'Grady that I hadn't been expected to, so I did believe I could beat him," Jim recalled. " But Alexis was just in a different class to those guys.

"He had tremendous balance. people said he was flat-footed, but he could move around so well. He was very precise with what he did. He didn't throw any silly punches and he had great power. I don't reckon I could have done any better (than losing on points over 15-rounds). I just accepted the fact that Alexis was a better fighter than I was. I didn't see the point in asking for a rematch. I was perfectly ready to retire."

Arguello, of course, carried on. Eventually losing to Aaron Pryor up at light-welterweight, Arguello's best days had gone. He made a couple of comebacks, as Watt recalled, but the fighter we remember today was the one from the 1970s and early '80s.

Watt spoke about how he occasionally ran into his former conqueror after he'd retired from the ring to do commentating work for ITV and then Sky.

"I met him five or six times in Las Vegas when I was working for ITV or Sky and he was there doing similar work," he said. "We'd just chat, as old fighters do, for about twenty minutes. He always seemed to have his life together, he obviously didn't. It's very sad."

Very sad indeed. Jim Watt is surely not the only former opponent of Arguello to be feeling pretty down right now.

Article posted on 02.07.2009

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