|Johnny Tapia Part Two: “Today I am clean, and I thank God for that” - Boxing Interview
By Benny Henderson Jr (March 11, 2008) Doghouse Boxing
In reading “Mi Vida Loca”, the life story of the five time world champion Johnny Tapia 56-5-2 (28), you come to understand the reasoning behind his struggles and strife, and most importantly his choice to become a professional fighter, the man truly is a fighter in and out of the ring.
As a boy, Tapia never knew his father, who was gunned down before Johnny was born, and his mother, Virginia, whom little Johnny witnessed being kidnapped was brutally raped and stabbed to death. His family was his grandparents.
Tapia battled in some unforgettable bouts during his career, but his toughest throw down has been against himself and drug addiction, a fight that has been ongoing yet at this time Tapia told the Doghouse, he is winning.
Tapia, who my mind is a future Hall of Famer, has tacked on five world titles, and has proven to be a tough hombre in the ring. Yet out of the ring Tapia has proven to be hard as nails as well, the man has died five times and is still here today.
Every man needs a foundation, and thus far his strongest point in life has been his wife Teresa, who has stuck by Johnny’s side for sixteen years and counting.
In the first interview Johnny spoke on his return to the ring, in this round Johnny goes back in time and speaks out on his past very candidly, enjoy.
Benny Henderson Jr.: How long have you been sober Johnny?
JT: You know what, I have a year, but the truth is they don’t say that because you might get off recovery. As for me it is for today, you don’t say three years for years, they say you are just as good as yesterday. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow never comes for me. If I was not sober today I would really be hurt. Every time I said I was sober this long
you think it is easy and that you can do it again. I can say fifteen to sixteen years, I am not going to lie, I have difficult times, but today I am clean and I have been clean for a long time. I thank God for that. After a while you get comfortable and you fall back in the whole and I do not want to do that.
BH: Well I am proud of you my brother, and like I said before you have my support, call me anytime.
JT: Same here, last night I said a prayer for your family. I am no preacher or teacher, but I am really trying you know, I don’t want to lose what I have.
BH: You have had several fights throughout your career; Danny Romero, Paulie Ayala and Marco Antonio Barrera come to mind. Give the readers your top three fights and why they are so memorable for you.
JT: I also had Cesar Soto, he had never been knocked out in seventy fights, I stopped him in three rounds, but all my fights have been important to me. To get over the hump and the big rival was Danny Romero, and I beat Paulie Ayala twice, he knows it. Maybe it could have been 1-1, the second time I took him to school. Nana Konadu, he knocked out a lot of people, and that was probably one of my best boxing performances ever. If you want to learn something about boxing, he was one of the hardest hitters out there. I took his title. Konadu was one of the hardest hitters at 118. He was a hard hitter, but I only let him hit me one time.
BH: Here you were, a kid who came from a tough neighborhood, lost his mother at a young age from an unspeakable crime. You go from gang banging and scrapping in the streets to boxing in the ring. Early in your professional career you were suspended for three years and pretty much had to start over when you returned to the ring. Being honest your life and future in boxing looked pretty damn bleak. But after all of that, in 1994 you raised your hands in victory earning yourself your first world title. Detail your emotions at that time you were awarded the title.
JT: My dad was shot at gunpoint; my mom was stabbed twenty-two times with an ice pick and raped her. In 1994 I was the first fighter to ever win the title in Albuquerque, it was an emotional, it was not like happiness, but like I did it, I finally did it. I hit somebody and did not go to jail for it, the fans and all were crying for me, it was just so emotional. After everything I’ve been through, I had died three times back then. I was off for three and a half years and came back and won a title. The fight was just unbelievable and unreal, and then I got greedy and wanted more.
BH: Again my brother, all the hell you have been put through in life, all the hell you put yourself through in life. You have been beat down by addictions and defeated drug addictions, died five times and you are still here today and you can say I am a five time world champion, I am a father of three beautiful children, and have a great wife, and most importantly, after all of the hell I have seen, I am still here. How do you describe your feelings on all you have been through, how do you define your life?
JT: The truth is by the grace of I am going to be ok, by the grace of God I am here. The prayers from the fans. In boxing nobody gives thanks to the fans, I would not be here without my fans, they have kept me going and strong, when I am losing they will let you know when I am wining they will let you know too. Like I said I give them a lot of thanks because I can be anywhere, I can be fighting and know that I am down and hear them and I can come back and overcome anything that has happened to me. And with drugs it is a daily fight on a daily bases. When you get a little control over it you are alright, it is a struggle; it is a struggle to keep your dream alive. But if you let it get you, believe me it has you. It has gotten me many times, but I am now getting a grip on it. How do I do it, by the grace of God and I have good people around me. It is a struggle and it is something that you have to fight within yourself, that is the hard part but when you do it, it gets a lot easier. You just have to have good people around you.
BH: With all that you have accomplished, what are you most proud of today?
JT: Being married. Having a woman that has been there thick and thin.
BH: Sounds like she is a champ as well.
JT: She is a champ, without her, I mean by the grace of God you would not be where you are at, my wife has been there through thick and thin. It is unbelievable to have some to have your back.
BH: If you could go back and change one thing about your life what would it be?
JT: I would change nothing. There is nothing I can change. If I did not go through the stuff that I went through, I would not be here today. Nothing has been handed to me, everything I have I have fought for. Losing my mother and my father made me a bigger and better person and a stronger person mentally and physically, and spiritually.
BH: What advice would you give to a young fighter stepping into the pro ranks for the first time.
JT: The first thing that I could give advice for period in life. If you have never done drugs, don’t do it because the first time is a mistake the second is a habit. As far as the ring goes, you have to enjoy it and love it, if not you are going to get hurt.
BH: Is there any message that you would like to send out to the fight world?
JT: Continue keeping me in your prayers, to my fans, I am doing well and continue to keep me in your prayers because I am going to get a lot stronger.
I would like to thank David Rodriguez for setting up this interview, and special thanks goes out to Johnny Tapia for his time and thoughts.
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