There isn't much these days that truly inspire me about boxing anymore. All my heroes are either dead or retired and long since forgotten. The bangers and Fights Of The Year that were once at instant classics and bring back memories like it was yesterday - those too have all found their place among the pages of pugilism's cob-webbed and archived past. I don't write like I used to and I now fall asleep when watching the majority of televised boxing that we're fed these days. It is what it is, I guess? Yet there are still those small glimmers of hope, those faded memories that come back to the surface and remind me of the love affair that I have always maintained with boxing.
You see, boxing has a way at pulling at a man's heart strings, much like a beloved wife does, or a child who looks into your eyes and you can see the love pouring out of their soul into yours. The unimaginably hard life and times of Johnny "Mi Vida Loca" Tapia pulls at my heart strings in that very same way.
Tapia was always a fan favorite and so entertaining to watch fight that you just couldn't pull yourself away from the screen when he laced up the gloves. To witness such a personally tortured soul step into the ring every single time and give until he had nothing left to give was in a word - incredible. I never had the good fortune to see him fight live, but I do remember renting a hotel room with all of my friends (everyone kicked in) and watching him fight on HBO because none of us had cable. I remember the rivalry with Danny Romero, the relaxed and carefree but up-tempo pace of his style of boxing, the speed, head and upper body movement, clowning of his opponents, the paralyzing body shots. Johnny was the truth in boxing and it seems since men like him have stopped existing and fighting that everything left in boxing is just that - the remainder or leftovers.
I'm old enough and lucky enough to have been able to see real fighters like Tapia compete and dominate on a flickering screen during my lifetime. It was a blessing being able to grow up when I did and see fighters like Johnny who fought. Not at all what we're faced with now, guys who want an easy ride on the elevator straight to the top floor with the quick payday without earning it. Meanwhile, there are solid boxers sweating it out and bleeding in gyms all across this country worth far more. Johnny Tapia was worth far more. Tapia was boxing and there was no pretense about the man, no falsehoods. He fought, I mean truly fought in the ring, and although as a supporter I was never blessed or fortunate enough to meet him in some ways it could be safe to say that all of us, at least vicariously in some way - knew of the man.
We knew of his heart. Of his character in and out of the ring. His troubled past and present and the teetering balance between heaven and hell where Johnny lived. I can only imagine the pain and heartache that his wife and family must feel, and have felt over the years. Johnny Tapia was a fighter, a boxer. If my memory serves me correctly, Hagler once said that if you opened up his skull all you would find inside was a boxing glove. I think this holds true for Tapia as well if not more so even. He lived and bleed the sport like none other. So from one simple fan of yours - may you sleep with the angels Champion. Say hello to Gatti, Forrest, Arguello and any of the other true fighters up there, I'm sure there will be more than one hell of a sparring session up there in the heavens going on at any given time.
I hope that you find the peace now that you never could in life. R.I.P.
TWO-CENTS WELCOME! If you have any questions, comments, complaints, kudos or anything else you can e-mail Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org. Always remember when in doubt knock ‘em out!