The CBZ Newswire

‘Mi Vida Loca’ Johnny Tapia Found Dead at 45

by on May.28, 2012, under Boxing News, Obituaries

Archived interview and fight report revisited in light of sad news

By Juan C. Ayllon

The late Johnny Tapia (left) slugs away in his bout versus Sandros Marcos (photo by Josh Walls)

The late Johnny Tapia (left) slugs away in his bout versus Sandros Marcos (photo by Josh Walls)

CHICAGO — According to Yahoo!News, former five-time champion Johnny Tapia, 45, has died. His turbulent life and boxing career was pockmarked with bouts of depression, addiction to cocaine and alcohol, and trouble with the law.

Along the way, Mr. Tapia had become a man of faith. However, as with many addled with addition, his storied struggles have racked him for many years. On May 27th, his lifeless body was discovered in his Albuquerque home.  No official cause of death was reported. 

I had the opportunity to interview Tapia in September 2005, just days before a comeback attempt against one Sandros Marcos (a bout I would report from ringside). I was struck with his openness in addressing several comas he’d suffered from cocaine overdoses, as well as the hope he’d placed in his newfound faith.  Clearly, addiction was his most formidable opponent.  You just couldn’t help but root for the guy.   

Mr. Tapia lost his fight aginst Marcos – his sole loss by knockout - in compiling a record of 59-5-2 with 30 knockouts. He would fight four more times, winning his last bout against hard-hitting Mauricio Pastrana by unanimous decision on June 4, 2011. 

As disappointing as his loss was against Marcos, I was troubled by what happened after the bout.  Beneath the glossy veneer of a sparkling new faith were hints that things were much more fragile and tenuous than they appeared.   

In closing, I have attached both the interview, which clearly depicts this struggle of hope versus adversity and addiction, and my fight report.
May you rest in peace, Johnny Tapia.


Interview with Johnny Tapia

Johnny Tapia Speaks Mind, Prepares for Marcos, Hopes for Another Title Shot Down the Line!

By Juan C. Ayllon

ALBUQUERQUE, NM, September 12, 2005 – Four days before his upcoming fight against a young and dangerous fighter at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago-Sandro Marcos, who at 24-13-2 has 20 knockouts-four time world champ Johnny Tapia is enjoying the good life. At age 38, he is doing what he loves most, boxing, with his wife, Teresa, managing his career and raising a family with him.
Highlights from his career include:

· Winning the vacant WBO Super Flyweight Title in 1994 by stopping Henry Martinez in the 11th round

· Unifying the IBF and WBO Super Flyweight Titles with a unanimous decision over hard-hitting cross town rival, Danny Romero on July 18, 1997

· Winning the WBA Bantamweight Title by majority decision over Nana Konadu on December 5, 1998

· Winning the IBF Featherweight Title by majority decision over Manuel Medina on April 27, 2002

· Losing to all-time great Marco Antonio Barrera by unanimous decision on November 2, 2002

· Losing and winning split decisions against bigger Frankie Archuleta on March 5, 2004 and April 15, 2005, respectively.
Things weren’t always so good. In his well-documented struggle with drugs, Tapia almost passed away at one point, remaining in a coma for days. However, with the help of his wife and a faith he embraces, he rose to new heights.

In this exclusive interview, Johnny Tapia shared his thoughts leading up to this Friday’s fight.

On how he’s faring these days:

JOHNNY TAPIA: I’m doing good, Juan. You know, I’m blessed. I’m thankful for what God has given me.

On how his faith has benefited his struggle with drugs and his boxing career:

JT: Yeah, you know, the situation, it’s not that I use faith to try to say I’m better than anybody or…you know, I just love my dear Lord. You know, they said, ‘Whoever’s with God, couldn’t go against you.’ So, that’s a big statement right there.

But, you know what? I’m just thankful and I’m so excited to go to the Windy City-Chicago-where all the Latinos are, and every kind of nationality that’s there, too. You know, I just want to go give everybody a hug and let everybody know that I’m just a regular person, not a celebrity, not a champion: Just let ‘em know what I do best and that’s box.

On recovering from difficult times, including comas related to drug addiction:

JT: I have been in a coma a few times. Of course, [it was] drugs, [and] alcohol-pop into my drink and mess me up!

Well back three years ago, I was in a coma. I was in a coma for 36 hours and I was on life support for two days. But, you know what? Then I got out, four months, five months after that, I ended up, I come out of a coma-I wasn’t supposed to live-and came back. I was supposed to be brain dead and never did, thank God! Then, I come back and I fight the number one contender from Mexico City, rated number one in the world, Contrerras, and I ended up beating him. And, I just kept going up, and up, and up!

I’ve been walking with the Lord all of the time, but sometimes when you start using, you forget a lot of things. And, everybody knows my history; everybody knows my background as a drug addict. But, you know what? God is guiding me.

As a matter of fact, I’m not the type to be a hypocrite or the type to hide anything. As a matter of fact, a book is coming out in October. Ah, Bonus Books, with Walt Disney. And, also, my movie’s coming out with Jerry Bruchamier.

You know what? It’s a blessing, like I tell you.

On his aspirations to win another world title:

JT: You know, the truth is, look it: I want to go for another world title. If it happens, it’s going to be beautiful for me, to prove I can win another title at 38 years old. But, if it doesn’t happen, I got six over here at home already! So, I mean, it’s just another icing on the cake.

It don’t matter who I fight. I mean, I’ll go give my best. But, the truth is, right now, I’m thinking of that Marcos guy, who I’m supposed to be fighting on Friday.

But, like I said, you asked me if I could give any champion and, you know I’ve fought every champion in the world from 115 to 118 to 126, and have fought every number one contender. And God has put that in front of me. I’m going on 60-ah, let me see here: I’ll be 57 wins, if God’s willing this weekend, if God’s willing today, I do win, I’m going to win, go for the win, well now 56-4 and 2. 62 fights? How many people can say they even got 60? Or 50, past 50? These days, you know?

On how he views boxers today versus years past:

JT: The honest truth is this: They were troopers and they were warriors back in the day. You know, but a new beginning has come, and a new venture-how do you say that? And a new era. Right? Got a lot of better boxers today.

But, then again, you can’t-you know, you’ve got Willy Pep, and you have Sugar Ray Robinson and, I mean, can you really compare to those guys? Do you see anybody like that anymore?

Ah, you know, back in the day, everybody’s a true warrior to me, with a lot of respect who gets in the ring. I do not kick down a fighter if he has 150 fights or he only has one fight. But, you add up those 150 fights, [and you] mix it up into one fight. So, you know what? To me, it’s just whoever gets into the ring, I got total respect for, because you don’t know what’s going to happen.

And, if you get hit with black eyes or you get cuts, some people don’t know how to come through that. A lot of people are beautiful fighters, are beautiful sluggers, but when you get hit, and you get cut, and it’s deep and you go to the corner, a lot of people don’t know what to do.

And, I thank God, that that’s happened to me early. ‘Cause if I have a big cut, and once I lick my blood, I’m going for it then. And, I’ve been through all that. I’ve been through having cuts in the face, and the nose and the eyes, and hurting my hands, getting head butts, and from breaking my nose almost 30 times. I mean, what can you do?

On his love for boxing:

JT: It’s something that I love. I love the sport of boxing; I love the one-to-one challenge, where nobody can jump in for you. It’s just you two, you give it your all, kick each other’s ass, and then after, you just hug each other, you know? That’s cool.

You know what? How I explain it is look: you love the sport of boxing, they say, ‘yes.’Have you ever tried boxing? They say, ‘No.’ Well, then don’t! Don’t even try it. You know what I mean? But, if you love it, and you want to try it, try amateur. Then, some people that get hit hard don’t ever want to try it again. The smart ones, anyway!

And, the guys that just love it, well, then-that’s me, the dummy-come on in. But, life has been that kind of situation, anyway.

On his strategy for Sandro Marcos, whom he will be fighting this Friday night:

JT: I don’t know him! I don’t know Sandro Marcos. I’ve never seen him fight, I didn’t get no tapes, I didn’t get none of it. And, do I know how he fights? Well, does he hit hard? I don’t know none of that.

Well, he’s got 20 kayoes out of 24 victories…

JT: (speaking to Theresa, his wife): You know Sandro Marcos got 20 knockouts?


JT: Oh, my wife did. I didn’t. Thanks for telling me.

[Theresa talks in the background].

JT: Oh, she just found out today.

He’s 24-13 and 2 with 20 kayoes.

JT: He’s 24-13, 20 knockouts. That’s sad. But, you know what? I’ll be ready, once he hits me. Thing goes out the window after that, Boss. Believe me.

On what his career plans are, assuming all goes well this Friday:

JT: I’ll just take it one fight at a time, one day at a time, you know. Like I said, I just got a couple more left. I’ll be turning 39 now in February and I’ll have 30 years of boxing. And, I don’t have nothing else to prove or nothing else to go, or nothing else to do. I just want to try for another world title, and if it happens, fine, and if it doesn’t, that’s fine, too.

On his feelings on Marco Antonio Barrera, as well as his upcoming match against Robbie Peden:

JT: He’s a good partner of mine, he was another fighter I used to love see fight, and, you know, he’s not just a gentleman, he’s not just a champion in the ring; he’s a champion out of the ring, just the way he handles himself. He’s a gentleman and a scholar, you know?

I’ll never go against him (Barrera); he’s my partner.

On his thoughts regarding Erik Morales’ loss to Zahir:

JT: I didn’t get to see that fight, ‘cause I just got in, ‘cause I been training. But, I really heard that he didn’t look good at all. But, then again, he’s not at that weight; he’s not 135 pounds. Oh, you know, he’s a 130 pounds. I mean, 130, that’s his weight.

But, he’s getting bigger and, you know, we’re all getting older, too. So, you know, you got to continue training, you got to continue hitting it hard and you got to love it. And, you can give up boxing.

On the issue of fighting whomever he could in the history of boxing:

JT: You know what? [somewhat facetiously] I could have fought Sugar Ray. How would I did? I could have fought Rocky Marciano [Graziano?], been a slugger. When sluggers come at me, I’m a lot better. But, you know, boxers are boxing from the outside; I got to get back to them. It turns me into a slugger.

So, the truth is, do we have any challenges against those guys in the olden days? I don’t know. They were troopers: They went to work and then they win the fight, you know, and then they get beer in the corner. Maybe I’d have been good at that. But, I never picture myself doing something like that, no.

You know, I don’t want to disgrace myself and say, ‘I could have beat this guy.’ I wouldn’t say that, to begin with, ‘cause I’ve got too much total respect. I’m young. You know, but the truth is, I wouldn’t have want the fight. I don’t want to fight none of them, sh—! I’m a very big scaredy cat!

But, I mean, next year, I’d fight Alexis [Arguello] or I’d have fought…I don’t know. As a matter of fact, you have Alexis Arguello…as a matter of fact, I like Salvador Sanchez. Man, what a hell of a boxer; hurts you from the outside. I’d have trouble with him, you know? Chavez? We’d have banged, and probably both went to the hospital and eat ice cream. But, the truth is, Duran would have broke your ribs and knows how to turn.

I’ve learned from all these guys: I’ve learned from Alexis how to stand up straight and shoot; I’ve learned from Chavez how to really work the body, hit the head; I learned from Duran when you turn, and you hit, and you move; and then I learned how to get on my toes so beautiful from Sugar Ray Leonard and from Muhammad Ali. You know, so, how many more experience can you get from all those guys?

You know, Duran, I used to study a lot of his fights. You couldn’t ever hit this gentleman in the face with a solid shot because he knew how to turn and come right back at you. You know what I mean? I don’t know how he did it. He was just a champ all around. And, I really love that man ‘til today. I met him a lot. He’s totally respectful. I mean, he holds his head up. He’s a singer now, I hear.

But, the truth is, every time you hit him, he would twist, come back and hit you back. I started to do that a lot of times with a lot of fighters.

And then, I was very surprised how Alexis would shoot from the outside. He’d really connect, you know?

And then, I was very shocked at how Chavez comes in, moves side to side, hurts those ribs.

I mean, I’ve learned a lot from all that. You know, I’ve got a lot of idols, a lot of idols.

On how many tattoos he has:

JT: How many tattoos I have? A 120? I don’t know. I have one, two, three…I don’t know. Let’s just say I have like a whole T shirt: my whole back, my whole arms, and my whole chest.

On which one is his favorite:

JT: All of them. They represent something. You know, I have “Budke 505.” And then, I’ve got a ribbon, that’s “Mi Vida Loca.” And then, I’ve got the Roman gates of heaven, with the angels on the top. And, then I’ve got the Virgin Mary, and then I’ve got the “Passion of Christ” on the side of my ribs. Ah, I’ve got my mom and my wife on my back with the angels. And, I’ve got my son on the side with the ribbon under “Death before dishonor”, with Jesus, with the horns that they killed Jesus with. I got my son, Lorenzo. I got to put another. I’ve got another on my neck with my son with the cross, with the ribbon that says “Little J.” That’s my oldest son. And, then, I’ve got to get another one after the fight; I can’t do it now, with all the angels in my left hand: it says Niko, that’s my new baby. Yeah.

His name is Johnny Tomas Nikolai. And, then, my other one’s Johnny Lee Lorenzo Tapia. The other one’s Solomon Jonathan. Those are my kids. All of them are Johnny’s!

Like George Foreman’s sons…

JT: Like George, George and George! But, they all go by their middle names: The youngest, we call him Niko; his name is Nikolai. And, then, my five year old goes by Lorenzo. And then my other one, his name is Solomon, he goes in school by Jonathan. They all got their own names, but they’re all Johnny’s.

My last one was [born during] my fight with Frankie [Archeluta] , five months ago.

He’s your inspiration?

JT: Big time. You know, my family has black hair and blue eyes, all my family except me, the runt. My mom was black hair, blue eyes; my grandpa, my brothers. But, my baby came out black hair, blue eyes. Yeah.

On what he would like to tell Chicago fight fans:

JT: Yeah, I would like to tell the Chicago viewers that I’m not there as a champion, and I’m not there as a celebrity; I’m there to go give everybody a hug, and talk to everybody and just be friends, a people person.

That’s what I want to be remembered as there, as respecting people. Hey, what do you want to be remembered as, Johnny? I just say, respecting people.

I wish you all the best and hopefully, I’ll see you at ringside!

JT: You know, I thank you, God bless you, be safe, keep me in your prayers, and if there’s anything I can do, just let me know.
Johnny Tapia will be appearing this Friday at the Aragon Ballroom in a fight card that will be broadcast on Telefutura’s “Solo Boxeo” show (Poster: ).

*  *  *

And, now, the fight report. 

Marcos Upsets Tapia in Stoppage Victory, Martinez Stops Martinez in ‘Viva Mexico’!

 By Juan C. Ayllon

Photos by Josh Walls

Tapia is counted out (photo by Josh Walls)

Tapia is counted out (photo by Josh Walls)

 CHICAGO, September 16, 2005 – Four time world champion Johnny “Mi Vida Loca” Tapia’s hopes for one more title suffered a serious setback as he succumbed to the heavy fists of rugged, B-level fighter, Sandro Marcos. Actually, make that one well-placed left hook to the liver.

In round one, Tapia, 126 lbs., 55-4-2, 28 KO’s, showed flashes of championship form as he maintained a crisp jab and moved well as the taller Marcos, 126 lbs., 24-13-2, 20 KO’s, plodded after him. Marcos landed several hard combinations. At one point, Marcos-who seemed honored to be in the ring with a former champ and living legend-landed a low blow and apologized as Tapia took a deep breath.

In round two, Tapia appeared to be stepping it up as he drilled the body with a stiff right and Marcos landed a left hook to the head. Marcos dug a heavy left to Tapia’s stomach. Marco swung ponderous blows up top, while Tapia peppered using spry jabs and good movement.

However, Marcos drove Tapia to the ropes with a heavy right. Following up, he bounced a hard left hook off Tapia’s jaw, several jarring shots to the head and dug a vicious left hook to the left lower ribs/liver area that dropped a pained Tapia to all fours. He complained in vain, as Referee Gino Rodriguez counted him out at 2:59 of round two.

He hugged this writer upon exiting the ring, but later inexplicably left him hanging in the lurch, along with several other reporters. After waiting over 30 minutes in the hallway outside his dressing room, they were re-directed by a member of Tapia’s team to meet him at another point in the building nearby. Then, he simply never showed. Later, Indiana boxing promoter Octavius James, who had been in the dressing room, confirmed that he had taken Tapia to his car, as “he had had enough.”

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