Alexis Arguello a.k.a. El Flaco Explosivo (The Explosive Thin Man) or El Cabellero Del Ring (The
Gentleman of the Ring) is a three weight world champion that competed from 1968 to 1995.
He held the WBA Featherweight title from 1974 to 1976; The WBC Super Featherweight title from 1978 to 1980 and the WBC Lightweight title from 1981 to 1982. His list of accomplishments also includes holding the Ring Magazine title from 1975 to 1977, while also holding the lineal featherweight crown. From 1981 to 1982he was also the Ring Champion, and collected the lineal lightweight title in 1982.
Alexis Arguello is often recognized as one of the top fighters of his era. He has the incredible distinction of never actually losing his titles in the ring. Each time his title was lost, it was done on his own accord in an effort to pursue titles in higher weight classes.
He is regarded as one of the best punchers ever in the sport. He stood at 5’10”, which made him
abnormally tall for a fighter competing in lower weight classes. He is often compared to the great Joe
Louis. His fundamental skills were incredibly sound, he was efficient and calculating, and dissected
opponents with surgicaleon like precision. Like a surgeon, he had had an arsenal of tools to perform
with. His jab was picture perfect, his left hook was fantastic, but it was his straight right hand that often
spelled doom for many opponents.
Through 85 total fights in his career, he achieved 77 wins, with62 coming by way of KO. This lead him to be ranked as the 20th greatest puncher of all-time by RingMagazine when they complied their listing in 2003. Ring Magazine also recognized him as the 20th best fighter in all of boxing in the past 80 years.
Arguello was one of eight children and born on April 19, 1952 in Managua, Nicaragua, one of eight
children. His father was a shoemaker and his mother a housewife. Arguello and his family labored in
abject poverty in one of Managua’s worst neighborhoods. The conditions the family lived in became so
taxing, that it caused his father to attempt suicide by jumping into an abandoned well when Argeullo
was just five years old. Four years later when he was only 9, his family informed him they could no
longer afford to keep him in school. At that point he decided to run away to work on a dairy farm. At the
age of 13, he relocated to Canada in an effort to provide for his family.
Unfortunately, tragedy and hardship would define much of Arguello’s formative years, and ultimately his
life. Nicaragua was deep in the throes of Civil War during the 70’s. His brother Eduardo joined the
Sandinista Rebel group, and prior to the end of the war was captured and killed by Nicaraguan
government forces. Despite his brother fighting for the rebels, when the Sandinista came to power in
1979 they seized his 2 homes, boats, cars, and bank accounts. The reason why? He had taken a photo
with Anastasio Somoza, who happened to be a hated dictator, which marked Arguello as a government
After a brief amateur career, where he compiled a record of 58-2 with 48 KO’s. He made his professional
debut on October 26, 1968. His early career would give no indication that Arguello was anything special.
He started out by winning his first 3 fights. The next two fights, went the opposite direction. He suffered
a surprising KO for which he was never able to seek retribution, because his opponent Omar Amaya
never fought again. His second loss would be to Oscar Espinosa via split decision. He did however get
revenge on Espinosa, defeating him a year later by a split decision.
After his second defeat he would win 29 out of his next 30 fights. His first chance at a championship came in February of 1974 against WBA Champion Ernesto Marcel. His first championship would elude him on this night, as he lost a 15 round unanimous decision, in what turned out to be Marcel’s final bout of his career. This would not deter Arguello in the slightest. He picked up 4 more wins, before challenging Ruben Olivares for the title he was unable to capture in a prior attempt. In what would turn out to be a classic fight, Olivares held an ever so slight lead after 12 rounds. Round 13 saw Arguello stop Olivares and claim his first championship, the WBA Featherweight title. After 4 more defenses, he relinquished his championship and made the move to Super Featherweight.
Arguello moved up in order to challenge champion Alfredo Escalera. Escalera was an active and
accomplished champion, making 10 defenses of his WBC title. This fight would go on to be called “The
Bloody Battle of Bayamon”, and is remembered for its brutality. Escalera had his ears, eyes, nose, and
mouth busted open. Despite that Escalera was making a comeback on the scorecards, but it was not
enough, as Argeullo went on to stop him in the 13th round. His tenure at Super Featherweight was
impressive. He defeated Escalera in a rematch, then went on to defeat future two-time world champions Bobby Chacon, Rafael Limon, and Ruben Castillo. He also defeated Rolando Navarrete who would become a world champion in his own right.
He made 8 successful defenses of his title before making the move to lightweight.
Making the move to lightweight, Arguello was searching for his 3 rd world title in 3 divisions. He would
have to travel to London, England to do so. He took on WBA Champion Jim Watt. Alexis Arguello went into hostile territory and dominated Watts winning a unanimous decision. He became only the 6th boxer in history (at the time) to do so. He defended his title 4 times in this division, most notably against Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini. Arguello retained his title via a 14th round KO. It was after the fight that Arguello
earned the gentleman moniker, and endeared him to American audiences. He offered Mancini
assistance for his father, who at the time was dealing with an illness.
Alexis Arguello would move to Super Lightweight, in his quest to become boxing’s 1st four division champion. This is where he would engage in the 2 most notable fights of his career against future Hall of Famer Aaron Pryor. The 1st fight occurred on November 12, 1982 in Miami, FL. Pryor and Arguello engaged in a back and forth affair over the course of 13 rounds. During the 13th , Arguello landed a huge right hand that snapped Pryor’s head back and left him walking very slowly back to his corner. At this point the fight became forever mired in controversy.
In between rounds, Pryor’s trainer Panama Lewis asked for a water bottle, specifically asking for “the one I mixed”. No one will ever truly know if the water bottle was tainted, and many have speculated on what could have been in the bottle, especially considering that the Florida State Athletic Commission failed to perform a urinalysis after the fight. Regardless, in round 14 Pryor came out renewed and stopped Arguello in the 14th round. Any controversy that existed after the first fight quickly became an afterthought. Arguello gave a spirited effort, but was knocked down three times before ultimately being stopped in 10 rounds. The quest for a 4th world title was over, and so it seems was the illustrious career of Alexis Arguello. He proclaimed after the fight “I am not going to fight anymore. I quit”
Comeback & Post Retirement
Like many fighters before him Arguello came back to fight for financial reasons. He fought sporadically
between the late 80’s and early 90’s before finally calling it quits in 1995. He went back to his native
Nicaragua following the loss to Pryor. He fought briefly with the Contras, before switching allegiances to
the Sandinista’s. He was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992, and in 2008 he was
selected as the flag bearer for Nicaragua in the Beijing Olympics. Later that year in 2008 he was voted
vice-mayor in his hometown of Managua.
Sadly, after his career was over, Alexis Arguello struggled with drug addiction and depression and on July 1, 2009, Alexis Argeullo died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound; He was 57 years old.