Alexis Arguello, 1950 - too soon

Sonny Palermo

New member
They are arguably the biggest names in their sports, past and present.
They are the players most recognized when they go out in public, they sell the most jerseys, their names transcend the sport and they are known to non-fans, too.
In baseball, Yogi, Ripken, A-Rod.
In basketball, Shaq, Jordan and Kobe.
In football, James Brown, Brett Favre.
In hockey, Gretzky, Crosby.
In boxing, Ali, Tyson, Leonard, Pacquiao.

All of them, with the exception of Yogi, are both loved and hated by fans of their sport.

My point is that it is rare for an athlete to rise to the top and be loved, universally.

Tiger, Ruth, Chamberlain, LT, Orr – they all have their detractors.
But every once in a while we get an anomaly, a guy that is respected, if not loved by all.
Alexis Arguello was such a man.
In winning and losing he showed dignity and class.

Today, they’re putting the man in the ground today, his life over at age 59.
And the world is a lesser place.

When fans and sports writers want to give an example of the true meaning of sportsmanship, an often noted example is Arguello after he defeated Ray Mancini:

“Boom Boom” Mancini was a huge crowd favorite, and had the kind of back story that Hollywood and fans love: his father was predicted to become a lightweight champion until a wound sustained in WWII ended his career. The son took it on himself to fulfill that lost destiny, and had the skills to make it possible. His profile and popularity were built through national appearances on Saturday afternoon TV, and in 1981 with his father seated ringside he finally got his shot at the WBC lightweight title, held by Arguello. He was in control early, but Arguello was one of the greatest lightweights of all time, and in the 14th he KO’d the youngster from Youngstown.

In this scenario in the world of sports today, the winner would run a few circles around the ring, then climb the ropes and pound his chest while waving to the fans. But that was not the kind of man Arguello was. After the ref stopped the bout he went to Manicini’s corner, where the loser sat dejected in defeat, with tears in his eyes – not because he lost, but because he felt he let his father down. Arguello kneeled before the kid and told him to hold his head high, told him he was a great fighter and that he would be champion some day.

That is sportsmanship and class unseen in the world of sports today, especially boxing.

I am a boxing fan. Alexis Arguello is one of the reasons why.

I love boxing so much that I moved to Vegas to be closer to the action, to attend the biggest bouts in person, to be part of the events, the excitement, the history. Before moving to Vegas I attended Monday Night Football’s 25th Anniversary party at the Marriot Marquis in Manhattan. It was an invite only affair, and I lucked into one. I found myself surrounded by many of the biggest names in sports. The friends I went with gathered autographs and photos of themselves with some of their sports heroes. Not me. The few times when I have met public figures from sports, music, movies or TV I have been unimpressed, it’s no big deal to me. Until one evening in Las Vegas, when I came to understand what fans felt when they had these photo op/autograph request moments.

I was at a post-fight press conference. I was listening to a fighter answering questions from the press, when a man tapped my left shoulder and asked if anyone was sitting in the empty chair next to mine. I glanced at him and said, “No, it’s empty, help yourself.” I had a delayed reaction – I went back to listening to the press conference for a few seconds and then I did a double take as it registered in my mind. I looked at the man seated next to me and he smiled, as if he knew exactly what I had just experienced and had in fact seen it many times before.

I didn’t want an autograph.
I didn’t want to have a photo taken of us standing next to each other.
I knew exactly what I wanted, which was simply to say, “Thank you. It was a pleasure watching you perform.”
And so that’s what I did.
And Alexis Arguello looked at my name tag, offered his hand, and said, “You’re welcome Sonny, nice to meet you.”

Yeah. A class act all the way, too rarely seen in the world today, sports or other-wise . . .


7/22/09; notes for "Killing Time"

As anyone who has lived in NJ and then relocated elsewhere knows, there is no good chinese food anywhere else.
Not in Vegas.
Not in Canada.
New Yorkers will say they have the best chinese food, because that's where they make chinese people (contrary to popular belief that they are made in China) but that's just because NY'ers are snobs and teink they have the best of all things cultural. Fact is NY chinese restaurants suck, they overcharge and under portion. Because they can get away with it.
And the quality if the food isn't that great either. Because there are so many people living in NY they can do a steady business no matter how bad the food is. On the other hand, in NJ, we get transplaned NY'ers who wanted to get away from the crowds, the noise, the traffic, the crime and other NY'ers. They open restaurants in NJ where the competition is stiff, so theyt have no choice but to serve good food or fold.


One of the problems with hitting fifty but still being mistaken for being in my thirties is there are no girls in my age group that I want to sleep with. All the hot chicks are under 35.
At this point I hear my the voice of my editor, who sits on my shoulder, both devil and angel, encouraging and admonishing me as the situation sees fit. "Sonny, you can't say that, you just alienated every woman over 35, and they make up a large part of the book buying public."
"True," I admit, "but if they know I said then by definitiuon they have to have just read it, and if they read it then it means they already boiught my book so what do I care?"
I continue with my diatribe about the evils of turning fifty before she has a chance to work out the illogical premise of my argument about them already having bought the book.

I dated a 42 year old once. Back at her place things got hot and heavy, and then she put the brakes on. What is this? What are we, in high school? Clearly she doesn't realize that there are less days on the front end of our calendars than on the back end, and we should be making the most of our remaining moments. Not to mention the physical state she has left me in, with her teasing, leading-me-to-the-cliffs-edge-and-then-pulling-back game. I'm on a serious case of blue balls now and in need of relief. (And no ladies, they don't really turn blue. I learned this after a 9th grade session of "Seven Minutes in Heaven", where I made it safely to third base but got thrown out trying to steal home. In extreme discomfort I ran to the bathroom to investigate and to see just exactly what shade of blue they were - sky blue or blue like the ocean, which anyone who lives in jersey can testify is not really blue at all but is a kind of sickly looking pea soup green. Turns out blue balls aren't blue at all, they just kind of look sad. Considering the situation, can't say I blame 'em.)
 
Last edited:
Top