Alexis Arguello, the Nicaraguan boxing legend who was found dead early Wednesday of a gunshot wound to the chest, led a demon-haunted life that he nearly ended by his own hand 25 years ago. From a 1985 Sports Illustrated story:
In 1984, when Alexis Arguello was 32, he sat on his boat in the ocean one morning and stared down the black shaft of a loaded automatic pistol. It was as good a place as any to die.
A.J. sat across from him, crying, begging him not to do it. Arguello cried too, saying that he must. There was no other sound except the ocean lapping at the boat, on which was painted THE CHAMP.
Arguello ached from the contradiction of his life, the way it lurched between opposites. Could it be that the distance between opposites was-nothing? So much seemed incomprehensible. No cause was pure, no motive clean, no external thing could be trusted. Everything a man needed to believe in in order to feel secure, life could rub his face again and again until he understood its opposite might also be true.
No resolution is possible in this life, a voice suggested. No, he cried-as long as he held this gun to his head, one resolution was possible.
"Don't do it, Dad!" pleaded A.J.
He looked at the boy for a long time. Twelve years before, on a humid night when A.J. was an infant, Arguello had felt a sudden urge to sleep next to his firstborn. A few hours later an earthquake ravaged Managua. The roof and walls in the room where Arguello normally slept collapsed upon the empty bed. Arguello laid down the gun.
The whole story is worth a read. The man lived a weird, Zelig-ian life. For a time, Arguello, one of boxing's great lightweights, moonlighted as a freedom fighter, a Contra, hunting members of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, on whose ticket he'd later run for public office. He was elected mayor of Managua last year. An autopsy is pending, but Nicaraguan media are calling his death a suicide.