Now the boxing world can join Entertainment Tonight fans in the growing crowd of mourners for dead celebrities.
Alexis Arguello is dead.
The former great lightweight champion was reportedly found dead in Managua, Nicaragua, where he had been elected mayor last year. He was a beloved figure in Nicaragua, and had turned his boxing popularity into a political career, elected vice mayor of Nicaragua in 2004.
It was quite a comeback for Arguello, 57, who a few years earlier struggled with a crack cocaine addiction.
Arguello was part of one of those legendary nights in boxing that have all but disappeared from the sport when on Nov. 14, 1982, he moved up in weight to face the dynamic Aaron Pryor, the undefeated world junior welterweight title holder.
It was one of those fights that presents the best and worst of boxing. Arguello had held the featherweight, super featherweight and lightweight titles over his career, which began in 1968, and, with a 75-5 record, had been considered one of the greatest lightweight fighters of any era. Pryor had turned pro in 1976 and quickly made a name for himself as a hard-punching junior welterweight (140 pounds).
Arguello moved up to fight Pryor in a highly anticipated showdown, and it was one those times when the fight was even better than the hype.
Pryor came out throwing combinations and set a remarkable pace that Arguello would match for most of the fight. Arguello suffered a cut in the sixth round that blurred his vision but was still going toe-to-toe with Pryor and had him wobbly in the 13th round.
But Pryor came out in the 14th with a savage attack that drove Arguello to the ropes, and Pryor landed about 20 unanswered shots before the fight was stopped. There was talk about some foreign substance in a bottle that Pryor was given in his corner between rounds, but nothing was ever proved, and the controversy was overshadowed by the performance.
“That was so intense,” Pryor told me in an interview years later. “We both left everything we had in the ring that night.”
They would fight a rematch within a year, and this time Pryor stopped Arguello in 10 rounds.
Pryor became an addict and told me he was “at the bottom.” But he pulled himself up from the abyss and wound up becoming an ordained minister in Cincinnati, and still worked with young fighters.
When the reports surfaced eight years ago about Arguello’s addiction, Pryor reached out to help him. Arguello would recover and, like Pryor, found a new life, this one in politics. But that second act has ended prematurely for Arguello, who may have indeed left too much in the ring that night in Miami.
I will be on The Sports Reporters on ESPN 980 AM Washington today (Wednesday) and Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m.
To learn more about Thom Loverro, go to www.thomloverro.com