1980sBoxingGil ClancyLightweight Title FightsSports Saturday / SundayTim Ryan

Boxing – WBC Lightweight Title – Champ Jim Watt VS Alexis Arguello

DOG ASIDE:

Jim Watt is a Scottish former boxer and commentator….who became world champion in the lightweight division when Roberto Durán left the title vacant in 1979….as the WBC had him fight Alfredo Pitalua for the vacant title…..knocking out Pitalua in twelve rounds.  Watt beat such notables as future world champion Sean O’Grady, former world champion, Perico Fernandez, Charlie Nash and Howard Davis Jr.. The fight with O’Grady was particularly controversial….as Watt won by a knockout in round twelve when the referee stopped the fight because of a cut suffered by O’Grady…..and according to the book, The Ring Boxing The 20th Century, the cut was produced by a head-butt….which would dictate that the judges’ scorecards would have been checked….and whoever was ahead would be given the win by a technical decision. The referee, however, declared that O’ Grady’s cut had been produced by a punch, therefore, Watt officially won the fight by knockout. When O’Grady won the WBA title four months later….Watt was declared lightweight champion by The Ring.  Watt also fought, and lost to, Ken Buchanan….and on 20 June 1981….he fought his last fight….losing the WBC world Lightweight title to Alexis Argüello by a 15 round decision in London. Watt retired with a record of 38 wins (27 by knockout) and 8 losses (3 by knockout).

“The Explosive Thin Man” Arguello was a professional boxer from Nicaragua…..who ranks with this lil ole Chiweenie Sportsphile as one of the super great fighters during the golden age of boxing…..as Arguello’s career suffered a first round TKO loss in his 1968 professional debut….but then won 36 of his next 38 bouts….which then led him to a world featherweight championship bout against experienced WBA champion Ernesto Marcel….a fight held in Marcel home of Panama. The young challenger lost a 15-round unanimous decision in Marcel’s retirement bout.  Undaunted, Argüello began another streak of wins….finding himself in the ring with a world champion again when he challenged Marcel’s successor to the throne….Mexican world champion Rubén Olivares in Los Angeles.  After Olivares built a small lead on the judges’ scorecards….Argüello and Olivares landed simultaneous left hooks in round thirteen….with Olivares’s left hand causing a visible expression of pain on Argüello’s face….but Argüello’s left hand caused Olivares to crash hard against the canvas. A few seconds later, Argüello was the new featherweight champion of the world.

Argüello successfully defended this title four times, then moved up in weight to challenge world junior lightweight champion Alfredo Escalera in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, in what has been nicknamed The Bloody Battle of Bayamon by many. Escalera had been a busy champion with ten defenses….and he had dethroned Kuniaki Shibata in 2 rounds in Tokyo. In what some experts (including The Ring writers) consider one of the most brutal fights in history….as Escalera had his eye, mouth and nose broken early….but was rallying back in the scorecards when Argüello finished him once again in the thirteenth round.  His reign at junior lightweight saw him fend off the challenges of Escalera in a rematch held at Rimini, Italy….as well as former and future world champion Bobby Chacon….future two time world champion Rafael “Bazooka” Limón…..top-ranked contender Ruben Castillo….future champion Rolando Navarrete, and Diego Alcalá….while being beaten in only one round….Argüello suffered many cuts around his face during his second victory against Escalera. The on-site doctor wanted him hospitalized….but Argüello had a flight to catch from Rome the next day to return to Nicaragua….and he boarded a train from Rimini….as the doctor decided to travel with Argüello and performed plastic surgery on Argüello’s cuts with Argüello awake.

After eight successful title defenses, Argüello then moved up in weight again….and this time he had to go to London, England to challenge world lightweight champion Jim Watt…..as seen in this video herewith…..as Watt lasted fifteen rounds….but the judges gave Argüello a unanimous 15-round decision….making him only the sixth boxer to win world titles in 3 divisions….and the second Latin American (after Wilfred Benítez had become the first by beating Maurice Hope one month before) to do it. He had to face some less known challengers in this division….with one exception being the famous prospect Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini….who would later be the subject of a made-for-television movie. Mancini and Argüello engaged in a fight that was later showcased in a boxing video of the best fights of the 1980’s….with Argüello prevailing by stoppage when he decked Mancini in round 14. This fight was referenced in the Warren Zevon song “Boom Boom Mancini”.

Arguello successfully defended his lightweight title four times….and after defeating James ‘Bubba’ Busceme by sixth round stoppage….Argüello decided to move up in weight class time again….and on November 12, 1982 he tried to become the first world champion in 4 different categories….meeting the heavier and future Hall-of-Famer Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor….in what was billed as The Battle of the Champions in Miami, Florida. Argüello was stopped in the 14th round….in a fight sparked by controversy…cuz Pryor’s trainer, Panama Lewis, introduced a second water bottle which he described as “the bottle I mixed” after round 13….leading to speculation that the bottle was tainted. The Florida State Boxing Commission failed to administer a post-fight urinalysis….adding to speculation that the bottle contained an unsanctioned substance.  It was later revealed in an interview with former Lewis-trained boxer Luis Resto that Lewis would break apart antihistamine pills used to treat asthma and pour the medicine into the water….giving Lewis’s fighter greater lung capacity in the later rounds of a fight. Others say that there was a mixture of cocaine, honey and orange juice in the bottle. A rematch was ordered and this time Arguello was KO-ed in the tenth….stating after the fight “I’m not going to fight anymore. I quit.” But he later returned to the ring for financial reasons.

During the 1980’s Argüello briefly fought with the Contras in his native Nicaragua during their civil war….but after a few months in the jungle he retired from the war which shows how popular he was in his homeland of Nicaragua….cuz he retired from the Army by declaring “I’m through”…..he then attempted several comebacks into boxing during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s….having some success….most notably a fourth round stoppage of former world junior welterweight champion Billy Costello in a 1986 televised bout that put him in a position for another shot at the junior welterweight title. He retired for good in 1995 with a record of 82 wins, 8 losses, and 65 KO’s….along with the recognition of being one of the sports most universally respected fighters among fans, experts, and boxers.  Argüello was elected to the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in 1992…..and in 2008 he was honored by being selected as Nicaragua’s flag-bearer at the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. Alexis Arguello was voted as the Greatest Junior Lightweight Ever by the Houston Boxing Hall Of Fame in 2014. The HBHOF is a voting body composed entirely of current and former fighters…..and in 2016, Arguello achieves his greatest accolade as he becomes an Imasportsphile Boxing Legend of the Golden Age of Boxing.

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