THE death of Johnny Tapia at just 45 wasn’t a shock given what came before, but the inevitability of his demise doesn’t ease the sadness. The body of the great fighter, whose private life was disabled by horrific trauma, substance addiction and misadventures, was found on Sunday, May 27, 2012 in his Albuquerque home. Authorities were called to the house at 7.45pm, and according to spokesman Robert Gibbs, there didn’t appear to be any suspicious circumstances.
Rarely has a nickname – “Mi Vida Loca” (my crazy life) – been more appropriate. Tapia claimed five world belts in three divisions, and at his peak his fistic artistry made him one of the sport’s finest. His achievements are incredible when you consider how his life began.
The man he believed to be his father was murdered just months before Johnny was born in 1967. At the age of seven, he was involved in a bus crash that killed the pregnant woman who sat next to him. A year later, he looked out of his bedroom window and saw his mother chained up in the back of a pick-up truck. She was stabbed repeatedly with a screwdriver and dead at only 32. Tapia vowed not to live beyond that age and committed to a reckless existence.