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Good Johnny Tapia Article

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Strongback
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Post by Pedro147 Wed Apr 01, 2015 2:02 am

http://moresport.com/boxing/cavalry-scars-the-johnny-tapia-story

Johnny Tapia was cursed from birth, but through guts, determination and talent he forged a fine career while dodging the Grim Reaper’s scythe…

Childhood memories. The first flushes of youth and innocence. Flashbacks to a set of loving arms around you. At the very least the rebounding of laughter even in the most pained of households. A lucky life considering all the troubled souls in the world. Something to be thankful for. A music of chance.

For some however, such things ricochet through a looking glass darkly. A world of slammed doors and raised voices. The threat of constant violence. Glasses draining in the midnight hours and the smell of acrid spoons and burning cottons. A permanent midnight to corrupt even the most innocent of eyes.

Then there was Johnny Tapia.

Aged eight, Johnny watches a man enter the house he and his mother live in. What occurs next will shape the rest of his life and haunt him forever. The man, without warning rapes his mother repeatedly. After that he stabs her no less than 32 times with a screwdriver before dragging her outside, tying her to a truck and attempting to finish her off. She somehow survives for four more days before dying in hospital, although she never regains consciousness. It’s said that for the next few years Johnny Tapia sleeps with his eyes completely wide open.

“My name is Johnny Lee Tapia. I was born on Friday the 13th. A Friday in February of 1967. To this day I don’t know whether this makes me lucky or unlucky. When I was eight I saw my mother murdered. I never knew my father. He was murdered before I was born.”

His formative years are a struggle, but if you don’t know any other hustle then in a weird way you sort of have a chance. Or no chance it all. Every family in Johnny’s neighbourhood has a tragedy. Pure poverty creates a pit bull and pride can put a muzzle on it. The sound of bullets and songs of the siren are constant in the neighbourhood but now and again a glint of success shows through. A ball player or an athlete but mostly a fighter beginning to see the light. For these individuals a boxing ring is the safest environment they’ll ever step into. Johnny Tapia is no exception.

As a boy his eyes light up at the chance of stepping into the ring, at the chance of redemption. Pretty soon he is a keen amateur and his talent is evident. Even early on he has an extraordinary fighting style. Like a fighter shaking off thirteen angry skeletons in the ring and winning, Tapia has an instinct for toe-to-toe fighting that can’t be taught. Bobbing and weaving like a dervish. Throwing barrages of punches like violent hailstones. It’s all there and like all people with God given talent he doesn’t even have to think about it. By the time his amateur career is over he’ll have won over a hundred fights and been Mexican golden gloves champion at two separate weights. Even at a prodigiously early age Tapia is being talked about in boxing circles and if his name isn’t quite up in lights quite yet, there’s enough people whispering his name to ensure a queue is forming.

By the time he turns pro however a familiar trait with Johnny Tapia is beginning to form, the ability to grip defeat from the jaws of victory. Not in the ring of course, an early cluster of impressive victories is pretty much par for the course for the talented Mexican, but in his life it’s different. Tapia is a bruised man deep inside, bruised and black like rotting fruit and he can never quite shake his demons off that dig their psychological talons into him. It makes him self destructive, do stupid things. In 1990, just as his pro career is taking off he tests positive for Cocaine and is instantly banned from the sport. It will be three and a half years before he’s seen in a ring. A cue for most people with potential to disappear into the vanishing point like a dead flash. Never to be seen or heard from again.


To his credit though Tapia doesn’t. In that time, sure he gets a little wild and does a little taste now and again and warps the odd testament to pay the bills but somehow he keeps himself afloat and most importantly alive. He even manages to fall in love and get married. As usual things don’t go flatline smooth of course. On the night of his nuptials Johnny is found unconscious with a needle sticking out of his arm. His wife Teresa sticks by him though and this is his cue to reinvent his career and get busy with his talent again. Maybe for the thousandth time, but so it goes with troubled men. Que sera sera.

Back in the ring Tapia now finds himself flourishing again. Within the space of a year he wins the WBO super flyweight title. It will be the first of five world championship belts, an extraordinary feat given his extra curricular activities outside the ring. No other fighter in the history of the sport will spend their time between defences the way Tapia does. Drug overdoses. Suicide attempts and self-loathing cast a dark shadow around the fighter, even as a world champion. He’s loathe to give a Frak though. That’s why people love him. Even in the super fights with the likes of Romero and Ayala and Barrera people mostly root for Tapia. He’s one of them, blue collar John. Ma Vida Loca. Outside of America that standard runs true too. In a rare appearance in London, he’s almost moved to tears when the whole of the crowd stand on their feet and give him an ovation before he’s even thrown a punch. It goes on for ten minutes. Enough time for him to have a sense of pride in his spectacular life. Think maybe he might even make it.

If only. Deep down Johnny Tapia knows he’s cursed. That’s the beautiful thing about him. He just wants to hold on to the wreckage till the piece of timber floats to the seabed. For a running decade however the Grim Reaper can’t quite land a clean punch on him. Tapia sways and weaves too sublimely for him. Whether it’s sparkling in the ring, from the Vegas casinos to the Mexican dust bowls, he doesn’t duck anyone and they very rarely beat him. His record is an exemplary one, 56-5 it reads and at least three of those defeats have the mark of controversy about them. The ring is an easy place for Johnny Tapia. Always was. Outside those confines however and he’s like a character from Denis Johnson’s ‘Jesus son’. Malcontent and strung out. Hurtling forward into the unknown with too many fuses lit in the half-light. Ticking towards an almost poetic doom.

Inevitably that end comes when he retires from the ring. In May 2012 at his Albuquerque home, Tapia is discovered dead under mysterious circumstances. As news of his death filters through to the press, there are a couple of journalists with none of Tapia’s talent and certainly none of his heart, waiting to write one last sensational story on him. They expect the gangster exit – the cliches, the drugs, the bullets and the barrio. All that punk rock cowpat.

Instead, there’s a lovely piece of irony to play out. When the autopsy report is finally made public it turns out that Johnny has actually died as softly as a butterfly. His heart has quietly given out at the age of 45. No drama. No histrionics. Just a dignified walk into the light. As if the keepers of the Cosmos finally shook their heads and said ‘no more Johnny Boy.’ No more. It’s time for your pain to end and your troubled soul to fly upwards home.

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Post by Guest Wed Apr 01, 2015 2:21 am

Nothing in that article that we don't already know about Johnny but some of us on here have a real soft spot for Tapia. When talk turns to which fighter's life should be made into a film, my vote is always for Tapia (even above Peter Jackson) but comes with the caveat that no-one would ever make it as no-one would ever believe it was a true story.

Remember watching him on tv fight at York Hall and the reception he got was brilliant. Fight was garbage but watching him do his victory flip afterwards and then him telling the interviewer he'd like to fight for the European title was memorable

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 Wed Apr 01, 2015 2:24 am

DAVE667 wrote:Nothing in that article that we don't already know about Johnny but some of us on here have a real soft spot for Tapia. When talk turns to which fighter's life should be made into a film, my vote is always for Tapia (even above Peter Jackson) but comes with the caveat that no-one would ever make it as no-one would ever believe it was a true story.

We'd all leave the movie house feeling suicidal.........

I'll pay for Coxy's ticket now.... Cool

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Post by Guest Wed Apr 01, 2015 2:26 am

TRUSSMAN66 wrote:
DAVE667 wrote:Nothing in that article that we don't already know about Johnny but some of us on here have a real soft spot for Tapia. When talk turns to which fighter's life should be made into a film, my vote is always for Tapia (even above Peter Jackson) but comes with the caveat that no-one would ever make it as no-one would ever believe it was a true story.

We'd all leave the movie house feeling suicidal.........

I'll pay for Coxy's ticket now.... Cool
I'll pay for STRONGY to watch it in 3D at the IMAX

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Post by hazharrison Wed Apr 01, 2015 4:37 am

This is the coolest thing I've read on Tapia:

http://thecruelestsport.com/2014/05/27/under-saturn-johnny-tapia-1967-2012/

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Post by Strongback Wed Apr 01, 2015 7:01 am

DAVE667 wrote:
TRUSSMAN66 wrote:
DAVE667 wrote:Nothing in that article that we don't already know about Johnny but some of us on here have a real soft spot for Tapia. When talk turns to which fighter's life should be made into a film, my vote is always for Tapia (even above Peter Jackson) but comes with the caveat that no-one would ever make it as no-one would ever believe it was a true story.

We'd all leave the movie house feeling suicidal.........

I'll pay for Coxy's ticket now.... Cool
I'll pay for STRONGY to watch it in 3D at the IMAX


Dave if I go out you can be damn sure I'll be taking you with me.

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Post by Derbymanc Wed Apr 01, 2015 7:49 am

Holy F, i've been holding out on getting his autobiography until I've got the time to read it properly, i've heard his name mentioned by a few of you fella's and elsewhere. I've only skimmed the article on him (I really need to get his book) but read the one you linked Haz.

Always knew his life would have been colourful (especially as some of the heavyweights on here had talked about it) didn't realise just how much.

I wouldn't like to see it as a film as someone would feel it needs jazzing up or 'cheering' up. What a life, and whilst he went too soon, glad the gutter snipes never got to write him up as all that's wrong.

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Post by kingraf Wed Apr 01, 2015 8:40 am

Johnny Fuc.king Tapia!!!

Do love the guy to bits. Read better, if I'm honest, but the guy gives so much material that I imagine it tough, barring on impossible for anyone with a basic comprehension of the English language to write a bad article on the man.
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Post by Valero's Conscience Wed Apr 01, 2015 6:14 pm

There is a good HBO Documentary on him which was filmed not long before he died.

For a beginner it will pretty much sum his life from childhood to death perfectly including lots of fight highlights.

A truly sad case.

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Post by Guest82 Wed Apr 01, 2015 7:45 pm

The book was quite poorly written I think.

I remember reading an article in Boxing news about him before the Romero fight, always followed his career after that.

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