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ADRIFT IN A SEA OF CHOICES
Gary Smith
October 21, 1985
Alexis Arguello once considered suicide as an escape from the contradictions and ambiguities that filled a rich life with betrayal and despair
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October 21, 1985

Adrift In A Sea Of Choices

Alexis Arguello once considered suicide as an escape from the contradictions and ambiguities that filled a rich life with betrayal and despair

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One day a few months ago, in Coral Gables, Arguello jumped from his seat in the office of friend and lawyer John Spittler (who replaced Roman as trustee of his finances before Thorne came aboard) and shouted, "I can do it! I can box again. Watch this!"—and threw a vicious right at the wall, leaving a crater with an outline of each knuckle.

Another day in Spittler's office he had dropped to his knees and clutched the lawyer's hand. "Don't make me fight again," he sobbed. "Please, don't make me fight."

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.

Arguello is back in boxing, with a bout in Anchorage this week, but he is no longer boxing for a cause. He is boxing for himself and his family. To say this chokes his soul, but a soul can be ambushed only so many times before it demands armor.

"Before, I thought we all were brothers," he says. "I thought the world was a beautiful place. It's a lie. Everyone is selfish. Now I care nothing for the world. It makes me feel selfish to say it, but people made me that way. I hate politics, I hate industry, I hate governments...I hate it..."

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