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Roman denies the charges. "I tried to put money in places where he wouldn't touch it," he says. "Alexis didn't lose all that money—he spent it. Nothing was done without his or his wife's signature. They are responsible. I never arranged any loan. He never asked my advice about buying all those houses—he just bought them. I thought of Alexis as my son. If he loved me like a father, how could he let his new lawyers accuse me of all this without the courtesy of calling me and letting me explain it all to him? How?"
By then, the IRS was threatening to impound everything Arguello owned. Each time his new advisers told him what they believed Roman had done to him, he struggled not to cry. "I do not blame him," he whispers. "I cannot. He made me someone." He did not believe Roman had wronged him, he did not want to sue. He refused to declare bankruptcy, insisting on paying off every creditor.
One day 42-year-old Landon K. Thorne III, a commanding officer of a U.S. Marines antitank reserve unit who had become Arguello's new financial adviser, called Alexis in and unloaded the latest bad news. "You owe the IRS $580,000," he told him. "Your houses—gone. Your office—gone. Your cars—gone. Your yacht—gone. You will have to sell everything to pay off the IRS. You have nothing, Alexis, nothing."
For the second time in his life, Arguello had been financially devastated. First it had been by his fatherland. This time, people were telling him, it was by the man he loved like a father. But now he was retired from boxing and could find no work that made him feel passion. He found that every insecurity inside him burst from its camouflage like a gunshot-startled flock of doves.
You could box again, a voice inside him said. And the flock of insecurities began flapping frantically, scratching and biting. He had entered the ring once as an impromptu fund-raising gesture for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in Columbus, Ohio, pulling off his shirt and going in in his bare feet and tuxedo pants. Before he knew it, his eyes had hardened and focused in the old way, and he had become so serious that his opponent, the 1984 light welterweight Olympic gold medalist, Jerry Page, had left the ring.
"How did it feel, Alexis?" a radio man asked.
"Oh, it brings back memories."
"No, good memories."
A month later, he was doing cable TV color commentary for a junior middleweight bout in Detroit between David Braxton and Reggie Miller. Braxton, far more experienced, was tattooing Miller, but the kid had the crowd roaring with his ability to respond. Suddenly, the sight of one human beating another snapped something inside Arguello. He tore off his headset and ran up to the apron, screaming, "Stop the fight! Stop the fight!"