Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Alexis Arguello, 1952-2009. R.I.P.

Former champion boxer turned politician Alexis Arguello has died of an apparent suicide. He was 57.

It was only last November that Arguello was elected the mayor of Managua, the capital city of Nicarauga as an ally of President Daniel Ortega. Ironically, Arguello had took up arms against the Sandinistas in the early 1980s after they had seized his bank account and property. However, he would become disenchanted with the Contras.

Accusations surfaced concerning corruption and this evidently motivated Arguello to end his life.

Arguello is best remembered as one of the best boxers who put on a pair of gloves. Turning professional at the age of 16, Arguello would become a world champion in three different weight divisions - featherweight, super featherweight and lightweight.

I remember watching his matches on CBS Sports with my Dad in the early 1980s and immediately noticed how he stood a notch above everyone else. There was another fighter that impressed me as well. If you're a boxing fan you are undoubtedly thinking of Aaron Pryor. Of course, I liked Pryor because of his first name.

Arguello wanted to become the first boxer to win a championship in four different weight divisions. He would twice challenge Pryor for the WBA Light Welterweight Title in 1982 and 1983 but came out on the losing end on both occasions. However, Arguello and Pryor had tremendous mutual respect for each other and were friends with him until the very end.

Like many fighters, Arguello periodically came out of retirement throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s but never won any other championships. He finished his boxing career in 1995 with a record of 82-8 with 65 knockouts.

Prior to being elected mayor of Managua, Arguello was Nicarauga's flag bearer during the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

There's a part of me that feels suspicious. Nicarauga is a rough place to do politics. I cannot help but think that Arguello might have angered the wrong people and paid the price for it. On the other hand, Arguello did have a history of drug abuse and depression so it isn't inconceivable that he couldn't cope with the scrutiny, fair or not, that comes with being a public official.

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