Five time World Champion Johnny Tapia, has been found dead at his home in Alburquerque, New Mexico. He was just forty five.
Johnny who was known for his ferocity and iron determination in the ring, as well as his kindness and warmth outside the ropes, won titles in the super flyweight, bantamweight and featherweight divisions.
Johnny had doggedly fought the demons of drug addiction for many years. He wrote about the heights of achievements and lows of desperation in an autobiography, which he poignantly and aptly entitled: "Mi Vida Loca."(my crazy life). He even had the motto tattooed on his body.
The seeds of tragedy were sown even before he even entered this world. His Father was murdered prior to his birth, and he witnessed his Mother's murder as an eight year old child.
Throughout his life, the ring remained a refuge, providing him with a pugilistic palate, with which he excelled, executing master strokes. Quality opponents don't come finer or more intense than local rival Danny Romero, Nana Konadu, Manuel Media, Cesar Soto, Maurico Pastrana (his final fight last year) and Paulie Ayala.
Braver than a lion, Johnny who'd easily TKO'd Jorge Barrera in the Jr Bantamweight Division back in 1996, was undaunted about the prospect of taking on younger but bigger and more famous younger brother Marco Antonio six years later. Stepping up to Featherweight, against such an opponent, was a bridge too far, but undaunted for a second, Johnny gave Marco all he could handle, while loosing a unanimous decision. They even shared a surname as Latin American people have two. Marco's Mother's maiden name is Tapia, so both claimed the crowd were cheering, clapping and foot tapping for them. And they were right! Typically the Barrera brothers and Johnny remained great friends, outside ring hours.
Short prison spells and probation had varying degrees of success in prizing Johnny out and away from the murderous grip of cocaine, even though he became a born again Christian.
Police confirm an autopsy will be done. But the Coroner will be working with the shell of the man. His true essence, was his unquenchable fighting spirit.