Born on this day: Alexis Argüello
He was first known as a knockout artist, and then as a multiple champion, but in that process he became a hero to his people and a beacon of hope for a troubled nation – before his own demons caught up with him.
Alexis Argüello was born on April 19, 1952 in Nicaragua, in a very poor family in Managua, where his father worked as a shoemaker. He ran away at a young age, eventually finding his way to Canada where he learned the English language skills that would later come in handy in his boxing career.
When one of his sisters married a boxer, he became interested in the sport and had a brief amateur run before becoming a professional in 1968 and he was off to a shaky start after compiling a 3-2 record in his first five bouts. However, he would go on to a 29-1 record in the next five years, including a win over former Cuban-Spanish titlist Jose Legra.
Argüello failed in his first attempt to grab a world title, losing to Panama’s Ernesto Marcel in 1974 with the WBA featherweight belt at stage, but five bouts later he would dethrone no less than Mexican icon Ruben Olivarez by stoppage in 13 rounds to finally grab the belt he failed to snatch from Marcel.
He would add the Ring belt in his second defense, and then move on to a reign of terror that included a 12-0 record in title bouts at 126 and 130 pounds.
In June of 1981, Argüello defeated Jim Watt to lift a title in a third division when he grabbed the Ring lightweight belt by unanimous decision in England. Four title defenses later, however, he moved up in weight once again to meet Aaron Pryor in his attempt to become the first man to win titles in four different divisions. He failed, in a very hotly disputed and controversial bout in which the suspicion of the use of illegal substances was present in Pryor’s corner. A rematch one year later did, however, yield a similar result, and three years later Argüello retired in 1995 after one of the most amazing careers of all time in which he left his indelible mark with his superb boxing skills and his demolishing right hand, never losing a title in the ring and always moving up in weight in search for the best challenge out there.
In his 24-year career he defeated the likes of Kevin Rooney, Billy Costello, Ray Mancini, Cornelio Boza-Adwards, Jose Luis Ramirez, Bobby Chacon, Rafael Limon, Alfredo Escalera, Royal Kobayashi and many others.
He later became active in Nicaraguan politics and was elected mayor of his native Managua in November 2008. Argüello died on July 1, 2009 after being found with a shot in his heart in Managua, in what authorities ruled as a suicide.
Argüello was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992.
Diego M. Morilla writes for The Ring since 2013. He has also written for HBO.com, ESPN.com and many other magazines, websites, newspapers and outlets since 1993. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He has won two first-place awards in the BWAA’s annual writing contest, and he is the moderator of The Ring’s Women’s Ratings Panel. He served as copy editor for the second era of The Ring en Español (2018-2020) and is currently a writer and editor for RingTV.com.