Doubts Grow About Whether Alexis Arguello Committed Suicide

Having a distaste for conspiracy theories the way I do, I bit my tongue yesterday — despite my doubts — about the official explanation given that boxing great Alexis Arguello’s demise was, apparently, a suicide. But some very, very level-headed people today are openly questioning that explanation today, wondering whether he was killed, and I think those thoughts require an airing out.

Tales of Arguello’s flirtation with death by his own hand are well-known at this point. This one was particularly poignant. Still, some of the details are a tad eyebrow-raising. Who kills one’s self via shotgun blast through the heart? It’s certainly not the predominant method. “The first man from Nicaragua ever to win a world boxing title was found shot to death at his home in Managua, the Sandanista Party’s government Radio Ya quickly claiming it was a suicide even though a gunshot wound to the chest would seem to hint of something more nefarious,” wrote the ultra-reliable Ron Borges.

Wallace Matthews recounts for Newsday a long, hard life where Arguello fought with cocaine, financial devastation, divorces, Sandanistas, and the time he threatened to kill himself on a boat with his son present, then notes:

If Alexis Arguello didn’t pull the trigger that day, there’s no way he did it yesterday, not after having pulled his life together once again so spectacularly – more than 20 years after fighting in the jungles of Nicaragua for the Contras, Arguello was elected mayor of Managua only last November. And over so trivial and nebulous a matter as, according to one report, suspicions of “improper financial dealings?” Preposterous.

Jose Suliaman, not someone I’d put in the “ultra-reliable” category, raised a similar point to Borges’, nonetheless prompting me to finally speak up via Twitter. And, of course, friend of the site Burbank Baker — who always comes across as a highly rational sort — raised his own cautious suspicion in the comments section of the entry just below this one.

Today, there are yet more reports suggesting Arguello killed himself. “Assistant judicial police chief Glenda Zavala says traces of gunpowder were found on the 57-year-old Arguello’s hands, suggesting he shot himself. There were no other signs of violence in the room where he was found.”

I’m no expert on the state of Nicaraguan “good government” initiatives, so I don’t want to speak out of school. Nor do I want to advance any theories absent evidence. The bottom line is this: Arguello’s death should be thoroughly investigated by credible law enforcement authorities and none of us should jump to any conclusions one way or the other right now. And for not speaking up about my doubts right away and instead only passing along the official explanation without skepticism, I apologize.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.