“Mi Vida Loca” Has Come to an End
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (May 29, 2012) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © German Villasenor)
Johnny Tapia
On Sunday night, the news broke over the Worldwide Web that Johnny Tapia was found dead in his Albuquerque, New Mexico home at the age of 45. You just had the feeling that the man who had been given several reprieves in the past would not be cheating death this time around. There was a certain sense of finality to this time. And indeed it's true (kob.com/article/stories/S26).
On Sunday night, I tweeted out my thoughts on the sudden but not completely unexpected passing of Tapia: 
“I've had a few hours to digest the death of Johnny Tapia. He was among the first generation of world-class boxers I got to cover...
“But a troubled man who cheated death three times (actually five) finally succumbed. You always had the feeling this is the way it was going to end”
“Tapia was never supposed to even make this far. Some will call his passing premature; honestly, he made it a lot further than expected”
“A troubled and turbulent soul can now find solace. Inside a #boxing ring was the only time Tapia was ever truly at peace...”
“Yes, the end may seem tragic, but even then, Johnny Tapia still beat the odds. That's how much he overcame from the very start #boxing
 “But it's time to pay tribute; ‘Mi Vida Loca’ has come to an end. Rest in peace, Johnny Tapia.”
Honestly, I'm not sure I really have much more to add. To me, Tapia was a troubled soul from the very beginning who could never really outrun his past. He was last seen by the boxing community at a fight several months ago (if I recall correctly, the third match-up between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez) and he seemed to be in a good place and content with his life. But you always got the sense it was just a temporary state for him. Happiness was never going to be his destiny. It just wasn't meant to be.
He himself told close associates he was surprised he even made it to the age of 45. Bob Case, his adviser, who later became one his closest friends, recalls hearing stories from Tapia while taking walks in Big Bear during his training camps that had him crying throughout their strolls. He recounts one particular story of when, as a young child, he was put into fights with kids much older than him. If he didn't beat them, he'd have hot coffee poured on top of him and then get locked in a closet for hours as punishment for not coming out victorious in what amounted to nothing more than human cockfights.
There are other stories he says he simply will not repeat.
This guy never really had a shot at a normal life. We know all about his ring exploits but honestly, those were Tapia's easiest fights. Real life was his toughest foe. If there were any stability and tranquility in his world, it was his wife, Teresa, who, through turbulent times, was as loyal and steadfast as humanly possible. Unfortunately, it's been said that while she was his wife, cocaine was his mistress.
Common sense says that we probably don't need an autopsy to find out the cause of his death but what we should focus and celebrate is that for 45 years, he battled like hell.
One day Tapia will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He finished a career that saw him capture five world titles with a record of 59-5-2 (30). He is arguably the best 115-pound champion who ever was but if there's a night that will always be associated with Tapia's career, it might the night of July 18th, 1997. Much like his career and life, that night was filled with turmoil. It was his bout against his archrival Danny Romero, who fought for the supremacy of their hometown. But Albuquerque simply could not stage this fight due to how fierce the feelings were between the two factions of fans.
Bob Arum, whose company, Top Rank, promoted that event, recalled, “The authorities didn't want it there. It was almost like two gangs.”
So this grudge match was placed at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas and then summarily bounced due to security concerns.
“The fight was scheduled to take place within a couple of weeks after the Holyfield-Tyson fight and there was the whole riot in the casino and the stolen chips and everything,” said Arum, speaking of the infamous “Bite Fight” and the ensuing aftermath at the MGM Grand. “And Arthur Goldberg, who was a real creep, who was the head of the Hilton and he made up some bullsh*t thing that we hadn't gotten an insurance certificate in at the right time, a liability certificate, which of course you always gave the last week. And he threw us out of the Hilton, in which case, we made an arrangement with Caesars [Palace] to be the host casino and put in the Thomas and Mack [Center] and of course, even though there was bad blood between Tapia's group and Romero's group coming from the same hometown, there wasn't one incident there and the fight went off very well. We did very well.”
Tapia won a unanimous decision over Romero to add the IBF junior bantamweight belt to the WBO strap he already held. The most indelible moment of that night took place before a punch was ever thrown. As Tapia entered the ring, he stopped at the ring apron, looked out at the crowd (which had more of his supporters), pounded his heart and pointed up at the sky. To this day, I'm not sure if I've ever heard a crowd erupt the way they did.
When asked what he will remember about Tapia, who spent a good portion of his career under the Top Rank banner, Arum stated, “He was, first of all, just by being around him that he wasn't a normal kind of person. He was very mercurial; he couldn't absorb details. He had like no attention span but deep down, you knew he was a good, good guy. He was warm and sorta lovable but, obviously, wasn't a normal kind of person.”

More of Steve's recent work below his contact info...
I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.Twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing.
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