By Robert Morales
Alexis Arguello won world titles in the featherweight, super featherweight and lightweight divisions. He tried for a fourth division title, but twice was stopped by junior welterweight champion Aaron Pryor. With a thrilling style that combined power, beautiful technique and smarts, the late Arguello was one of the all-time greats.
Ever wonder what a pint-size version of Arguello would look like?
Try Fernando Montiel, a three-division world champion from Mexico who has become one of his boxing-proud country's all-time greats.
"Montiel's style, even though he's much smaller, reminds me of Alexis Arguello," said Montiel's promoter, Bob Arum. "He is a very, very good boxer with a tremendous punch and he's very intelligent; he sets up his opponent.
"The obviously great fighter that I was around that I can equate with Montiel is Arguello. If you look at their styles, you will see the similarities."
Montiel spoke on Thursday via telephone from his training camp in Mexico before Arum. Montiel went into training immediately thereafter, so he does not know of his promoter's comparison.
But he spoke at length about a career that undoubtedly will land him in the International Hall of Fame, like Arguello. Montiel - who Feb. 19 will defend his two bantamweight belts against Nonito Donaire at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas (on HBO) - has won titles in the flyweight, super flyweight and bantamweight divisions.
He has an overall record of 44-2-2 with 34 knockouts and he is 17-2 with 13 knockouts in world championship fights.
It all started as a youth growing up in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, where Montiel said he played soccer and baseball and boxed.
"I went to school and did my sports, which I loved doing," he said.
But boxing was where it was at in his heart.
"I have loved boxing ever since I can remember," Montiel said. "My family has all been about boxing. All of us have fought, my brothers, my father. It was just something I had in my blood."
Even so, Montiel admitted he never could have dreamed he would accomplish everything he has.
"I think as a boxer, you always think about being a world champion, but that's about it," said Montiel, who won his first major title in December 2000. "I never thought about being a champion in different divisions or about being champion for a long time. People talk about the Hall of Fame, but those things never crossed my mind."
Montiel was told by this reporter that he definitely belongs in the Hall of Fame, regardless of what he does from here on out.
"Just the fact that you even mentioned that I can be there is enough for me, that people think that way about my career," he said.
Arum talked about Montiel's intelligence. Perhaps that also has helped keep him an on even keel emotionally, which often translates into physical success. When asked if he believes he is one of Mexico's all-time greats, he was typically modest.
"I don't want to think that way because my head will blow up," he said, laughing. "I don't want to think I'm that big of a shot. Just to be compared to some of those guys ... I'm a three-time world champion, but there is never going to be another like Julio Cesar Chavez. There is nobody like him.
"But if I can be like a (Juan Manuel) Marquez or a (Marco Antonio) Barrera, that would be great."
Just because he's humble, doesn't mean he doesn't want his deserved recognition.
"It's important because I've worked really hard to get everything I did," said Montiel, 31. "I earned everything."
He'll earn even more and cement his legacy even further if he beats the younger Donaire. The 28-year-old Filipino is 25-1 with 17 knockouts and, like Montiel, resides in Yahoo.com's top 10 pound-for-pound poll.
"A win over him confirms me as one of the best in the world," Montiel said. "I've done a lot, but you can always do more and if I win this fight, this is the kind of fight that can put me at another level. Even though I'm already at a high level in my division, I think this would put me at a higher level in boxing overall."
It would assure his place in the Hall of Fame, as if there is any doubt.
"Absolutely," said Arum, when asked if Montiel already deserves that. "He's had a distinguished career. He's fought everyone, hasn't ducked anyone. No question in my mind. If he beats Donaire, I think that will guarantee him being inducted into the Hall of Fame."
Where he'll join Arguello.
Robert Morales covers boxing for the Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram and BoxingScene.com
Tags: Nonito Donaire , Fernando Montiel , Montiel-Donaire , Montiel vs Donaire