May 28th, 2012 By Pedro Fernandez
TICKING BOMB EITHER WENT OFF OR CLOCK STOPPED TICKING!
San Francisco, CA- In a life that was marred with violence early in life, the murder of his mother, living to cope with life on the streets, and his biggest demon, drug addiction, boxer Johnny Tapia was found dead Sunday night abound 7:45 PM CT in his Albuquerque, NM home. Although he won titles in various weight classes, Johnny was for all intents and purposes a very good fighter, but he was a nut! Suffering from mental ailments, getting bonked on the head professionally, and a thirst for booze, PCP (a smoke able animal tranquilizer) and Cocaine in it’s various forms, either smoking or snorting, the only thing Johnny never copped to, at least to me, was mainlining (shooting up). He’s had treatment at inpatient cocaine rehab centers, but his drug use hounded him to the very end.
JOHNNY SINCE WAS AN AMATEUR ALL-STAR!
I used to attend his fights, early on before his rise to stardom, can remember a stellar amateur career, which if my memory serves me correctly included a National Championship. There are a lot of personal thoughts that I can share with you, but let’s look at his professional life. Banned in the early 90s for drug issues, garnered his first title at 115 lbs. when he took the vacant WBO title via TKO 11 over my former stable mate and Nicaraguan Olympian Henry Martinez in 1994. After nine WBO defenses, Tapia squared off with once-beaten cross-town rival and IBF champ Danny Romero. In what was an “easy” fight, Tapia won going away after 12 rounds in 1997 before a packed house in Las Vegas at the Thomas & Mack Arena.
WOULD HAVE LIMITED SUCCESS AFTER 115 LBS.
Winning the WBA bantamweight (118) trinket was nothing special as he outpoined Nana Konadu in 1998. Two fights later, Tapia was matched with Paulie Ayala, whom he fought twice and lost both times to in 1999 and 2000. In between the Ayala fight, Johnny had picked up the WBO 118 lb. belt Jorge Julio that he defended once. Then he was fighting at 126 and got a “hotly” disputed majority Decision 12 over Manuel Medina. While his followers, and there were many, thought he was back, Johnny Tapia was probably done and had peaked before the first Ayala scrap.
WAS NEVER “REALLY” IN THE BARRERA FIGHT
In 2002, losing big on points to Marco Antonio Barrera, Tapia’s behavior became even more odd and peculiar that it had been and that alone is a subject we could spend a day on. Incredibly Manic, Tapia could turn from smiles and adulation to sneers and threats in the blink of an eye. What blew me away is that his lovely wife Theresa, stuck by his side in some of Tapia’s darkest moments. Having been the ring announcer for at least three of his fights, the last one, a seemingly undeserved decision against Nick Bentz in 2005 at the Dodge Theatre in El Paso, TX, I watched Tapia throw tantrums before and after the fight. In the post fight interview, Johnny all but took my head off when I reminded him, “You know champ, we’ve been doing this together a long time.”
BOXING WAS HIS ONLY THERAPY
Fighting twice more in 2005, the first he avenged by out pointing Frankie Archuleta who had bested him by decision prior. Like the Bentz fight, Tapia had no business having his hand raised. The next time out , Johnny lost via KO 2 to journeyman Sandro Marcos. Tapia had but one fight in 2007, two in 2010, this before his walk to the ring in June 2011 against capable but tired and worn ex-flyweight champ Mauricio Pastrana of Colombia. With both men hitting the deck, Tapia would close the door on his boxing career with a UD 8 win. Officially, his record 50-5-2, 30 KOs.
A FEW DRINKS IN MIAMI
Before I leave you, I can recall the time Tapia and I were in a Miami Hotel circa 1993 for a card at a Jai Lai arena where I did the announcing. Booking agent and former fight-fixer Robert Mittelman said he was covering the drinks. As it turns out, Tapia, his girl and I, Mittelman as well, had a couple of rounds. What I didn’t find until I was checking out the next AM was that Mittelman had charged the food and drinks to my hotel room.
JOHNNY WAS LIKE A “BAD LUCK” CHARM
I last saw Tapia circa 2008 and he was more aloof than ever. Although he claimed to be clean at the time, you could never be sure when it came to Tapia who, like most veteran hard drug users, could look you in the eye and lie about things that really bore no need for deceit. I never expected him to make the age of 50, when he died Sunday night he was 45. The “demons” that haunted Johnny Tapia since the screwdriver stabbing (27 times) of his mother at the age of seven, those mental scars never went away. In 2007, while being hospitalized for one of a number of Cocaine overdoses, Tapia’s brother in-law and nephew were killed in an automobile accident in which “drinking” may have been involved while driving to the hospital to see him.
SADLY HIS ELEVATOR NEVER WENT TO THE TOP FLOOR
I always thought that through boxing, booze, and drugs that Johnny Tapia could run from that horrific event in his life, the loss of his mother, but he never could. His nickname was, “La Vida Loca” or “My Crazy Life,” which finally came to an end May 27, 2012. An autopsy is pending. May Johnny rest in peace!