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Ex-Boxer Is Making a Comeback -- in Court

March 29, 2004|David Colker | Times Staff Writer

Hall of Fame boxer Alexis Arguello thought his fighting days were long over, but he's suited up again.

At least his lawyer has. Arguello wants to go a round or two with video game heavyweights Electronic Arts Inc., Nintendo Co. and Sony Corp.

Arguello, who was crowned featherweight champ in 1974 and went on to capture three more titles, is a character in the hugely popular "Knockout Kings" video game, produced by EA and released by Nintendo and Sony.

In a lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Los Angeles, Arguello claims his name, identity and boxing style were used without his permission or compensation.

The retired boxer, now living in Managua, Nicaragua, said he had not heard of "Knockout Kings" until about three years ago. "I was at a friend's here, to see a fight," he recalled, "and a little kid with a Nintendo asked me to sign the game."

The suit asks for unspecified damages. The defendants couldn't be reached for comment.

"Knockout Kings" depicts numerous real-life boxers, including Muhammad Ali, Jake La Motta and Oscar De La Hoya. They can be controlled by players in virtual matches.

Arguello's lawyer, Gregory W. Smith, said he would file a suit on behalf of another boxer later this week.

The 51-year-old Arguello, who was given the nickname El Flaco Explosivo -- loosely translated as the Explosive Thin Man -- by the late sportscaster Howard Cosell, retired in 1995. Although his life was at one time notoriously plagued with money and addiction problems, he said it was now on the right path. He is, in fact, a candidate for vice mayor of Managua.

As for "Knockout Kings," he hasn't played it but questions its validity. "My son called me from New York," Arguello said, "and he told me that he beat Mike Tyson with me in the game. I told him, 'In your dreams.' "

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