Never to be Forgotten: Alexis Arguello

By Christian Giudice on August 18, 2018
Never to be Forgotten: Alexis Arguello
Will his legacy continue to grow over the next couple decades or will it slowly dissolve?

How do you defend against a man so dangerous, and so calculating? How do you beat a man who was so strong and intelligent?

Later, this evening, the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame will posthumously induct the late 3-time champion Alexis Arguello as part of a storied class of fighters that includes his nemesis in the ring and dear friend out of it, Aaron Pryor. Arguello’s bouts with Pryor will take center stage, but he represented so much more to the sport, to his people.

Although Arguello has been gone for nine years, it is nearly impossible to ignore what he accomplished or to forget what he stood for. 

Fighting with a lucidity that few fighters have been able to capture, Arguello represented the one fighter who did not move particularly well, was not blessed with great hand speed, but was incomparable when it came to precision and positioning.

Few can question his ring prowess, but where does that leave his legacy?

Nearly a decade has elapsed since his death, and it is fair to question how people continue to remember him. Will his lasting legacy continue to grow over the next couple decades or will it slowly dissolve? Will people forever recognize him as a great fighter, but a complex man whom we did not get a chance to know? 

In the ring, Arguello always knew he would find the time, and position himself perfectly for a devastating attack. Before the first fight with Pryor, Arguello never rushed; in fact, few fighters managed time like he did. Consequently, his opponents operated out of fear and hesitation; how could they not? One second, Arguello appeared slow-footed, pawing a harmless jab; the next, he landed a hammer-like jab that led to more punishment. In its entirety, the performance was masterful on so many levels.

At his best, Arguello was pure brilliance.

Analysts often reflect on how fighters dictate the pace of a fight, but Arguello set the standard. It was always a matter of time before Arguello opened up his offensive arsenal—and when he did—the consequences proved dire. How do you defend against a man so dangerous, and so calculating? How do you beat a man who was so strong and intelligent? Rarely did Arguello waste punches; and his ability to land a concussive punch when he needed to separated him from so many other great fighters.

“I knew he wasn’t quick and I was a counterpuncher, so after you hit him, he would go to grab his trunks,” said Ruben Castillo, who was knocked out by Arguello in 11 rounds in 1980. “Once he did that I was all over him. Then he would back up and regroup. But the problem was that one punch could ruin your whole day. My goal was to stay away from him, but he was too long and rangy. I thought I was out of range, and he hits me with a jab to my mouth. He had arms for days.”

People often wondered how such a fighter so steeped in violence could be so compassionate outside of the ring. Coming up as a young phenom, Ray Mancini saw the paradox firsthand as Arguello made it a point to highlight Mancini’s love for his father.

“No one could prepare you for how hard he hit,” said Mancini, who succumbed to Arguello’s power in the 14th round of their bout in 1981. “You know he hits hard with that right hand, but he hit just as hard with that jab. I made him miss 1,000 right hands, but then he got me with 1,001. And he jammed you like a ramrod. Geez! Those are the types of things you have to combat.’

A pattern developed with fighters who believed they could expose Arguello. Some, like Mancini, fought well and kept it close, but others just could not survive the abuse that arrived in waves and stole the life from so many confident fighters. Speed may not have been Arguello’s forte, but it did not matter because once he committed to that right hand, he punched through opponents.

“As soon as he hit me in that fourth round, I wasn’t the same,” said Roberto Elizondo, who was knocked out in the 7th round by Arguello in their 1981 bout. “You could hear the announcer say, ‘I think something is wrong with Elizondo.’ I had no more energy or strength.”

“I got a broken wisdom tooth from that left hook. It was cracked all the way through the tooth. My jaw was hurting really bad too. I felt each punch and a pain went through my neck and down my back.”

Fighters paid a steep price for engaging with Arguello. Some never came back to the ring; others returned as mere shells of the fighters they once were. All along, Arguello stayed humble, a gentleman who never wavered; to this day, people still recall moments of kindness and generosity. Beneath the cool exterior, Arguello thrived off a hunger for victory that emanated from his childhood.

“There was a Mexican friend who used to say that ‘Hunger is worse than any punch.’ That’s why Alexis was a person who had a vision,” recalled Eduardo Roman, the man who managed Arguello and stayed close with him until his death. “He always wanted to learn…”

“He wanted to go to the top, and the only thing I did was provide him a path to get to the top. Raton Mojica was his brother-in-law and he used to hit Alexis very hard. Mojica used to take Alexis to the gym and Mojica used to hit Alexis in the ribs very hard. He told him, ‘This is a hard business. This is just for men, and you have to resist it.’”

While Mojica helped prepare Arguello for the brutality of the ring, no one, not even Roman, could help him navigate the devastating political landscape years after he retired. When Arguello died, the people who loved him were forced to suffer in silence. Living in fear of repercussions by the Sandinista government, staying quiet was the only option. Muted, those people never received closure.

It will be nice for family members to see Alexis honored again this evening. Fighters will share fond memories of the great fighter, and reminisce about his bravery against Pryor; his youthfulness against Ruben Olivares; his devastating power against Ray Mancini. His legacy will stay intact.

But to those Nicaraguans who were silenced in 2009, and forced to endure cheap statues and phony tributes, the pain and resentment is still palpable.

Even in the end, Arguello always wanted to do what was right, even when the people around him had other intentions. It was always about digging deep to find a better Nicaragua, helping his people, no matter the cost.

A year before his death, Arguello expressed this sentiment:

“I can say that I took the message and responsibility of [all Latin America] because I did it. I can look back and say I did a good job,” he said. “I stood up to the expectation and represented this country with dignity and respect. I desired to be somebody. I am not ashamed. If I were born again, I’d do it again. I represented this nation in a positive way. I can tell the youth that I was always the best at my game.”

One day the time will come when the truth will emerge and Arguello’s name will surface again—not as a sympathetic figure or a political pawn—but as a beam of light that the lies and deceit can no longer extinguish.

And when that day comes, and the truth about his death is exposed, his people will be able to properly say goodbye.

Maybe then there will be closure.

Not the type of closure that allows his family and friends to move on, but the closure that softens the blow.

When that time comes, the only thing left to say is thank you.

Thank you Alexis.

Christian Giudice
Author: A Fire Burns Within: The Miraculous Journey of Wilfredo Gomez
Author: The Rise and Fall of Alexis Argüello
Author: Hands of Stone: The Life and Legend of Roberto Duran


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Alexis Arguello vs Ruben Castillo 20-01-1980

1981-10-3 Alexis Argüello vs Ray Mancini

Alexis Arguello vs Roberto Elizondo

Aaron Pryor vs Alexis Arguello I - Nov 12, 1982 - Entire fight - Rounds 1 - 14

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  1. Chico Salmon 07:10am, 08/21/2018

    Mr. Guidice, I have read your book on Duran and plan on reading the ones on Wilfredo Gomez and Arguello. Would love to see you cover some other Hispanic fighters like Carlos Palomino, Ruben Olivares, Bobby Chacon, or maybe Carlos Zarate. Good job on the Stone Hands biography.

  2. David 12:29pm, 08/20/2018

    There is no one out there today like Alexis Arguello.

  3. raxman 12:15am, 08/19/2018

    “not that bottle. the one I mixed”

  4. Chico Salmon 08:17am, 08/18/2018

    Nice article on a truly decent man.

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