Mourning Alexis Arguello: A ring legend gone too soon
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Try as I might, I can't be as eloquent as my colleagues in this business when it comes to expressing genuine sorrow over the passing of former three-division champion Alexis Arguello, who was found dead in his Nicaraguan home on Wednesday.
Suffice it to say, though, that one of my truest athletic heroes is gone.
As anyone in my age group can attest, Arguello was a boxing staple of Saturday afternoons in the final chapter of his storied career, dominating the lightweight division with a cool brilliance before trying -- unsuccessfully -- to become a four-division champion five pounds north.
This was after he'd already cleaned up at 126 and 130 pounds -- winning 14 of 15 title fights.
His bouts with Jim Watt, Ray Mancini, Robert Elizondo, Bubba Busceme and Andy Ganigan were classic exhibitions of calculated violence, and his demeanor outside the ring showed that great fighter and quality human being didn't always have to be mutually exclusive.
The post-fight exchange with Mancini was particularly striking to this youngster, with the 29-year-old veteran helping steady his wobbly and dejected 20-year-old foe, praising him for a valiant effort and assuring him he indeed had the stuff of a future champion.
Alexis Arguello was a boxing staple of Saturday afternoons in the final chapter of his storied career.
I was only 12 back then -- but I never forgot it.
And incidentally, he was proven correct seven months later when Mancini won his first title.
Because I was also a big fan of Aaron Pryor, I didn't exactly like Arguello's chances when moving up to topple the junior welterweight kingpin, but the battle they waged at the Orange Bowl in November 1982 is still a must-watch whenever I dig through my dusty old box of VHS fight tapes.
The Barry Tompkins call of the stoppage in round 14 is equally magnificent in its intensity.
But what I remember even more so in terms of the Pryor rivalry is the second fight 10 months later, when a thoroughly beaten Arguello simply sat and gracefully accepted the count of referee Richard Steele in round 10, knowing in his heart of hearts that his best was not good enough.
No whining. No blaming the establishment. No excuses.
Just one classy competitor symbolically tipping his cap toward another.
It's a video that every stool-throwing, conspiracy-accusing brat ought to be forced to watch before lacing up the gloves again.
The record books say Arguello fought three more times before finally losing to someone named Scott Walker 12 years later in Las Vegas, and pre-autopsy news reports have used the word "suicide" as the cause of his demise this week, but those aren't images of him I'll choose to recall.
Instead, they'll be piercing eyes, jet-black mustache, powder blue trucks with "Alexis" scrawled across the waist and those many Saturdays when he taught this early 80s pre-teen how to win with respect, lose with dignity and carry oneself the right way throughout the journey.
As a fighter, he was among the best I've seen. As a sportsman, he ranks every bit as high.
We never met in person, but I'm still a better man for having "known" him.
Farewell and peace, true champion.
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Now, a bit of feedback after last week's column, "Magazine's mandate has a hollow 'Ring.'"
The tenor of the e-mails I received leaned heavily toward the positive, with multiple fans and boxing business people stating a similar discomfort with the way the Golden Boy-owned property has seemingly anointed itself the be-all and end-all arbiter of championship legitimacy.
One note, though -- from a member of the publication's own suburban Philadelphia editorial staff -- illustrated to me the hubris now present in those who've taken a few too many swigs of the "we are the gold standard" Kool-Aid.
In part, it read: "Lyle, Lyle, Lyle, my friend, your diatribe of our 'Hollow Ring' policy just came across my desk here on top of the boxing mountain. Lyle, you make very valid points that are correct. But also make assertions that are BLATANTLY INACCURATE."
Somewhere along the climb to the mountaintop, the editor in question must've forgotten that use of excessive capital letters and multiple exclamation points (later in the note) doesn't actually make an invalid accusation any more legitimate. They simply make the author look desperate and silly.
Not to mention just a trifle condescending.
And as for the "BLATANTLY INACCURATE" assertions I supposedly made, I'm still waiting to hear one.
As was stated in my original piece, the magazine's online presence describes the "only three occasions" in which a fighter would lose Ring championship status -- namely "when he retires, moves to another weight division, or is defeated in a championship bout."
That wording, incidentally, remains exactly the same on the Ring Web site at the moment I write this.
If the championship policy is spelled out in more elaborate terms elsewhere -- perhaps on framed parchment in the editor's office overlooking the summit -- I'd make a suggestion that the meaning of the phrase "only three occasions" be immediately reexamined for its own journalistic accuracy.
And after such scrutiny, if any corresponding fact in my column can be called less than 100 percent precise, I'll be more than happy to rewrite the whole thing as soon as circumstances allow.
Heck, maybe I'll even try it in ALL CAPS!!!!!!
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This Week's Title-Fight Schedule: Saturday WBA bantamweight title -- Vienne, France Anselmo Moreno (champion) vs. Mahyar Monshipour (No. 12 contender) Moreno (25-1-1, 8 KO): Fourth title defense; Won only previous fight in Europe Monshipour (31-3-2, 21 KO): Ex-WBA champion at 122 (2003-06); First title fight at 118
FitzHitz says: Monshipour in 7
Last week's picks: 4-0 Overall picks record: 104-38 (73 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 20-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to Stone Cold Sports on the MVN Network (stonecoldsports.com) and several sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. E-mail him at email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/fitzbitz.