Johnny Tapia, a boxer who made a name for himself in New Mexico, was found dead in his home on Sunday evening. Police have not released details as to the cause of death just yet.
Tapia struggled for years to overcome the horrors of his early life, which included allegedly witnessing his mother's kidnapping before she was brutally raped and murdered. He was raised by his grandparents and went on to fall in to a life of drugs and violence on the rough streets of Albuquerque. He turned to boxing at an early age to help deal with his anger and frustration, and went on to have a stellar amateur career, winning the National Golden Gloves award twice within two years.
The young fighter went on to win several titles, building up his reputation as he went, and became something of a hero to his hometown. But drugs were never far away, and his career was suspended more than once due to cocaine use and legal issues which stemmed from it. In 1999, Tapia ended his 48-bout winning streak with a loss to Paulie Ayala; shortly after, he attempted to commit suicidevia drug overdose. After recovering--and more than one stint in a correctional facility--Tapia said he felt the time away had helped him, but that he could only live for the moment.
"I stayed clean in there," he said. "So I know I can stay clean out here. But it's only for today because yesterday is gone and tomorrow never comes. If I go and be excited too much and I mess up, then I have to start over again. Like I said, for today I'm OK."
Johnny Tapia beat the odds first by becoming world champion and then by living to 45; a tortured but good soul, and a real fighter.
Sad to hear Johnny Tapia has died! A great champion! RIP
RIP Johnny Tapia. You had many demons, but you were a good man at heart. May you be at peace. Gonna miss you
Rest in Paradise Johnny Tapia... No more struggle