Chuvalo doesn't believe ruling

STEVE SIMMONS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

George Chuvalo doesn't believe the police reports. Neither of them.

He won't accept, can't fathom that his old friend, Alexis Arguello, committed suicide. And he doesn't believe for a minute that one of his favourite fighters, Arturo Gatti, did the same.

This has been a tragic month for the boxing business. Arguello, a national hero and mayor of Managua, Nicaragua, supposedly shot himself in the chest in the first days of July. Gatti's death, first considered a murder, then a suicide, then a murder, was deemed yesterday by Brazilian police as a suicide. His wife, the prime suspect in the case, has been released from custody.

And after their deaths, came the shooting of former world champion Vernon Forrest and the untimely death of Canadian silver medal winner Mark Leduc.

Chuvalo, who has known no shortage of tragedy in his life, just delivered a eulogy at his favourite cousin's funeral, and wonders aloud why it is so convenient to lump boxing and suicide, so convenient for celebrity deaths to be speculated about rather than properly put to rest.

The apparent suicide victims of boxing had more than ties to Canada. Leaving the poverty of his youth behind, Arguello hitchhiked to Ontario around the age of 14, wound up living in Stouffville, working two jobs, training as a boxer, before returning home two years later for his very first professional fight, a bout in which he was knocked out in the first round.

Some 37 fights later, he left Nicaragua again for North America, eventually winning 82 of his 90 pro fights, winning three legitimate world titles, becoming a legend at home and around the world.

"I read he shot himself in the chest," said Chuvalo. "Who shoots himself in the chest? I've never heard of a guy shooting himself in the chest.

"A guy's going to kill himself, he puts the gun to his head or in his mouth. You don't shoot yourself in the chest. One bullet, no note of any kind. I believe somebody killed Arguello. And for whatever reason, the police (in Nicaragua) don't want to see it that way."

Almost every summer, Chuvalo travels to Canastota, N.Y., for the Boxing Hall of Fame inductions and almost every summer he would renew his acquaintances with Arguello. And to be honest, "I was a little jealous of him.

"He was a bloody movie star-looking guy, and he handled himself like a star, a real handsome guy, well built, you know the type. We'd be at these things together, shaking hands, signing autographs, posing for photos, and I'd be there sweating away, with my shirt open, looking like me, and he'd be there with his shirt and tie done up, cool as a cucumber, not swearing a drop."

Now they may have suicide as another similarity. Chuvalo lost a son and his first wife to suicide. He has lived the life of Canadian celebrity but not without enormous personal cost.

Maybe because he knows his own pain, he isn't readily willing to accept that others so young, so talented, took their own lives.

"How could that be a suicide with Gatti?" he asks of the Montreal native.

"Didn't he have a stab of some kind in the back of his head? Didn't he have strangulation marks around his neck? You think he did that to himself?

"How's that make sense?

"This reminds me of that Woodbridge couple murdered in Mexico a couple of years ago when the police tried to blame everybody else. Rather than find out who did it, they'd rather it go away.

"You think Arturo Gatti, you think a guy who never ran away from anything in his life, why would he want to run away now?"


Videos

Photos