The Nicaraguan Alexis Arguello, also known as “The Explosive Thin Man” (El Flaco Explosivo), was one of the best boxer punchers we have ever seen in the sport.
A three-weight world champion with 62 KOs in 82 fights, Arguello was arguably the most dangerous boxer ever in the ring from 126lbs – To 135lbs
He is best known for his classic bouts with Aaron Pryor where he attempted to become a 4-weight world champion. However, there is a lot more we can learn from him than just those fights.
In this boxing analysis breakdown, I’ll be taking a closer look at his action-packed style, which made him one of the greatest boxers of his era.
You can watch my video version or continue reading below:
Background and achievements
Born in the slums of Nicaragua, the country was in political chaos under the Somoza regime. Arguello had a tough upbringing before taking up the sport of boxing. He and his family fled to Canada and it was actually his sister’s Boyfriend (A pro boxer himself) who bought him his first pair of gloves.
After amassing an impressive amateur record of 58-2. Arguello at the young age of 16 years old would turn professional starting at bantamweight. He suffered two defeats very early on in his career, however, persisted in his dream to become champion.
It was at the age of 21 in 1974 which would be his breakthrough year. Here he would get his first world title shot, for the WBA featherweight title which he lost. But the Nicaraguan would go on to finish the year on a high getting another title shot again for the same belt. But this time winning against the great Mexican Rubén Olivares. To put things into perspective, he fought seven times this year alone.
Here he would go on to defend his title 4 times before moving up to junior lightweight which in my opinion saw Alexis at the peak of his powers. He would win his next title against Alfredo Escalera in a brutal fight which was called “The Bloody Battle of Bayamon.” in Puerto Rico.
At 130 pounds, Arguello seemed unstoppable, defending his title 8 times against the likes of Castillo, Bobby Chacon, and Bazooka Limón. While defeating all of ‘The Ferocious Four‘ convincingly!
From here he would move up in weight to take the chance to become 3 weight world champion against the lightweight world champion, Jim Watt, where he put on a dominating display.
As there were not as many sanctioning bodies at the time as are now. Arguello was truly considered the best in his division and an all-time great for achieving such a feat.
After some more title defenses, Arguello would move up in weight again to challenge the undefeated Jr. Weltweright Aaron Pryor, and to get a bigger payday. These fights are absolute classics, especially the first fight, but Pryor’s powerful swarming style proved too much for the Nicaraguan.
That was very much the end of the road for Arguello in terms of title fights, but you have to give him credit for daring to be great and moving up to win in 4 weight divisions.
This is one of my favorite quotes by Peter King who wrote the following in 1981,
“Watching Arguello fight is like enjoying the subtleties of a great Renaissance Masterpiece.”Peter King
Arguello’s Boxing Style
Arguello had a very traditional textbook and orthodox stance by using a high guard and simple footwork to edge closer to his opponent to fire jabs, slip punches, and then unleash his power shots.
He definitely had all the boxer-puncher elements, but he was also a very good pressure fighter. Not like someone like Julio Cesar Chavez or a lightweight Roberto Duran. But he was in fact a lot more calculated. For me personally, he very much reminds me of a little Joe Louis in terms of the stance and overall subtle approach before unleashing hell.
He would usually look to counter incoming jabs or straight shots and return fire with his famous devastating right cross.
The Nicaraguan would also look to set up body shots with his left hook to the liver which also took out many of his competitors.
Once Arguello had you hurt, he would go on the hunt to take out his opponent throwing a barrage of quick combinations.
The other thing to note was Arguello was a very patient fighter for the most part. He would rather take his time to set up and hit you with accurate sniper-like power shots, instead of needlessly throwing them and hoping he would land.
In terms of negatives due to his upright stance at times and his timely pressured approach. Arguello did struggle against opponents who had superior footwork and would require him to be extremely patient. T
he only other criticism I would have is that he would move back in straight lines at times and stick out his arms, which would leave him open for overhand hooks. And he would struggle on the inside sometimes as we saw in the fights vs Pryor.
But despite all this, his perfected textbook skills allowed him to add other elements to become one of the best we have seen.
Now let’s take a closer look at the finer attributes of his style in more detail below.
Now one of the first things I want to address is Arguello’s stance was perfect in terms of a textbook point of view as just mentioned.
He would have a high guard, with both arms tucked to block any incoming body shots. The left hand would be slightly edging forward to throw jabs. While the right would just be in front of the chest ready to catch shots and block hooks.
The lead foot was in line with the rear heel, shoulder-width apart. The weight would be on the rear foot, so he could throw his right straight with power when needed.
Many people have mistaken the jab for having a longer range to reach the opponent. But it is, in fact, the straight rear hand that can reach your target at a distance due to the rotation. This was something Arguello knew and would take advantage of.
Following these textbook fundamentals to perfection, allowed Arguello to add other dimensions to his arsenal.
First and foremost Arguello’s lead hand was all about finding the range on his opponent. This was so he could know the distance to set up that big right hand.
He would use the jab to feint, prob, or fence with his opponents to gauge the distance and occupy the guard. If the jab is landing, the right hand would definitely be in range due to his perfect right-hand cross.
Due to the Nicaraguran not throwing somewhat assertive jabs all the time it would give his opponent a false sense of security, feeling they could out-jab him. Here Argulleo would mix it up by throwing sharp quick jabs out of nowhere, double jabs, or jabs at the body.
He was of course very subtle with his jab, but it was all about patience in setting up his other punches.
Dynamite right-hand cross
The explosive right hand of Arguello is what he is best known for and that was because he would throw it with such precision and power.
As already mentioned, his textbook stance was made for this rear-hand laser-like punch. His body mechanics were near perfect when he would throw this. He would rotate from the right foot to the hips, and through to the end of the punch. (Watch the clip below)
Because of the damage, he could do with the right hand, Arguello knew he was most dangerous when opponents were at the end of his punches. So would always try to keep them at a mid-range distance to set this punch up.
The Nicaraguan would also use the reputation of the right hand to open up further opportunities.
Setting up the body attacks
The other area Arguello had much success with was his devastating body attacks. This is no doubt his more Latin style coming out with brutal left hooks to the body.
The caution of his dynamite right hand from opponents would give Arguello another dimension to attack his competitors, by instead attacking the body.
This could be the following, check out below:
- A simple body jab, to help lower the guard.
- Double left hooks
- The jab-cross (body)
- Right hand to the solar plexus
- Right-hand cross, with a left hook to the liver.
With the fear of the right cross, I feel many opponents would cover up top with a higher guard, leaving themselves open to Arguello’s body attacks.
As I mentioned before, Nicaraguan was very calculated in his pressure. He would take small shuffling steps forward without compromising his stance or position.
From here he would throw jabs to fence with his opponent and occupy their guard. While also using head movement to slip incoming shots.
This would be the perfect opportunity for Arguello to counterpunch any lazy jabs or punches his opponent would throw.
Another big part of this pressure was through purposeful footwork. Probably another area that people don’t think of for Alexis Arguello. His lead foot for the most part would always be pointed at his opponent while keeping in his stance.
From here he would be able to keep his balance and be economical in his movements with a slight shuffle forward to continually apply pressure and then time the right moment to attack or counterpunch.
Good boxing footwork often gets mistaken for things like the ‘Ali shuffle’, but in actual fact, it’s best to have a balanced approach so you can maintain the distance. Especially as a pressure fighter like Arguello.
Now another area I wanted to touch on was Arguello’s comfortability with southpaws, which he had no problem facing throughout his career. If anything this wasn’t a good thing if that was your stance against Arguello.
In Orthodox vs Southpaw encounters usually, it is the Southpaw that is better at getting their foot on the outside foot of the opponent. Arguello, no doubt thrived off the opportunity to land his right cross against many of his southpaw competitors this way.
He also mastered occupying the southpaw jab making it very difficult for them to use their jab. Due to the fear of the right hand, it would allow Nicaraguan to set up fantastic lead hook combinations to take them out.
He’s a brilliant example of orthodox fighters wanting to get the upper hand over a southpaw. (Make sure to consider watching my other film study at the bottom of this article for more detail in this area)
Now hardly anyone in boxing is perfect in terms of defense and they will get hurt at some point. This was definitely not Arguello’s strongest attribute, as it was more his proactive offense that would help defensively.
For the most part, his defensive skill set was based on head and waist movement making sure his head was off the centerline. He would always be making sure to move and slip punches all the time without having to lose his positioning. In turn, it would help Arguello set up counterpunch opportunities.
For his defensive footwork, it was all about keeping balance and in his stance for Arguello. If an opponent came out aggressively he would quickly take a straight step back before and try to pivot back to the center ring so he could continue applying pressure himself again.
As I said earlier in this article it wasn’t necessarily his strongest area, as it was more about applying calculated pressure himself.
Finally, there is no denying that Arguello had tremendous knockout power. This is what made him so captivating to watch as the knockout could come at any moment.
Personally, I think a lot of his power comes down to throwing his punches with technical precision. By using all the correct body mechanics, to make the most of his power.
His KO over, Kevin Rooney, is probably one of my favorite knockout punches of all time.
Alexis Arguello is without a doubt one of the most entertaining fighters you can learn from, who has all the solid textbook fundamentals in place.
You may mistake him for being quite mechanical in terms of his approach at times, but he was so clinical in terms of what he aimed to do in the ring.
I think it helped that he was also generally a lot bigger than many of his opponents, taking advantage of his height and reach, and why wouldn’t you?
If you’re someone who looking to improve or set up your backhand cross, I highly recommend you study this true all-time great!
Arguello was also known as the nicest guy outside the ring “El Caballero del Ring” (The Gentleman of the Ring), but a deadly warrior inside. And that’s exactly why many people loved and appreciated Nicaraguan during his career. Sadly Arguello did pass away in tragic circumstances, but hopefully, this breakdown will continue his legacy which has no doubt helped inspire many of us and even created more world champions.
For more on Alexis Arguello Why not watch my in-depth film study here:
Check out my other boxer style analysis features here or why not look at my other analysis on the following boxing stars:
- Aaron Pryor
- Marvin Hagler
- Sugar Ray Leonard
- Julio Ceasar Chavez
- Gennady Golovkin
- Andre Ward
- Canelo Alvarez
- Oleksandr Usyk
- Tyson Fury
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