- Beloved Warrior: The Rise and Fall of Alexis Argüello by Christian Giudice
Alexis Argüello was a three-time world champion professional boxer and is recognized as one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters in the history of boxing. The Nicaraguan was rated by Ring magazine as the 20th out of the 100 best punchers of all time. The Associated Press (1999) placed Argüello, with the athletic nom de plume of El Flaco Explosivo (“The Explosive Thin Man”), as the number one junior lightweight of the twentieth century.
Contemporary boxing marvels at the seamless manner in which Manny Pacquiao has been able to move up, and up, through a bewildering cluster of weight divisions and continue to win with his all action arsenal of muscular power. It should be noted here that Argüello did not lose world titles in the ring. His road map meant that he gave up one world title in order to try and take over a world crown in a heavier division. His three championship divisions were featherweight, super feather weight, and lightweight. The 5’10” boxer had a boxing record of 90 fights, 82 wins, 8 losses and, in a testament to a fiery ring persona, he had 65 wins by knock-out. As with Philippine’s Manny Pacquiao, Argüello got involved in mainstream politics in a variety of roles.
In 1995 he retired—permanently—from professional boxing. In November of 2008 he became the mayor of Managua in a closely contested election. His death on July 1, 2009—officially reported as a suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot—is now seen as mysterious, and questions are being raised about possible foul play.
Christian Giudice, the author of Beloved Warrior, is a graduate of Villanova University and Temple University and manages Golpes y Libros, a plan to fund boxing gymnasia in Central America. In 2009 he wrote a biography of Roberto Durán with the perfectly appropriate title, Hands of Stone.
Giudice with Beloved Warrior is an able storyteller as he crafts a narrative that spotlights Argüello’s fistic successes and then charts a succession of emotional and psychological setbacks of which the most serious was a chronic drug addiction. In 1999, the forty-seven-year-old Nicaraguan, married to his fourth wife, seemed hopelessly lost. “Only four years after he ended his career once and for all, Argüello was living in a veritable hell. His body was emaciated and his mind controlled by cocaine” (p. 209). However, by 2005 “he demonstrated strength and fortitude to overcome the disease” (p. 213).
In terms of boxing history Argüello’s two most epic battles were with Aaron Pryon. The first took place in Miami on November 12, 1982, and Argüello lost on a technical knock-out in round fourteen. In a 1983 rematch (September 9) in Las Vegas, Argüello suffered a similar fate in round ten. This second contest affords Giudice an extraordinary writing canvas and in a powerfully delivered eight-page vignette—from Gloria Estefan belting out the national anthem to “seconds” cutting off the shoelaces of an unconscious Argüello—he gives an excellent commentary on a titanic engagement. Giudice’s forte is his solid journalistic base. While his primary sources are restricted to World Boxing, Ring, [End Page 540] New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and International Boxing, his data collecting, in terms of conducted interviews, draws from more than fifty conversations. A good case could be made here that sports historians should, more frequently, capitalize upon the rich information gathering potential of a one-on-one dialogue. That being said Giudice fails to give the socio-cultural scrutiny to his subject that Argüello, and boxing in general, deserve. Christina D. Abreu in her eloquent essay on Benny “Kid” Paret in the Journal of Sport History (volume 38, number 1, spring 2011) serves up an exemplary example of how a boxing biography can be expanded, and elevated, by classic...