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Johnny Tapia to fight on March 6th: Mi Vida Loca is back

By Sam Gregory: This Saturday, February 13th, five time World Champion Johnny Tapia of Albuquerque, New Mexico will turn 43 years old. On March 6, Tapia is scheduled to make his return to the ring to fight Jorge Alberto Reyes 21-27-3; Tapia hasn’t been in the ring since he defeated 32 year old flyweight Evaristo Primero 14-13 in a majority decision on February 23rd, 2007.

Tapia has essentially been retired since his last fight in 2007. Over the past two years there were rumors of Tapia coming back to boxing but none that materialized.

It was one year ago this week that Tapia was admitted to the psychiatric ward at Bernalillo County Metro Detention Center in Albuquerque following an anonymous phone call to Tapia’s probation officer informing her that Tapia was using cocaine.

According to a statement by the New Mexico State Department of Corrections last year, “The probation officer called Tapia at his home and he admitted to her that he was using cocaine which was a violation of the terms of his probation for a prior drug offense. Within hours of that phone call Tapia was behind bars again.

Johnny Tapia has always been one of the most intense characters in the sport. For those not familiar with Tapia and his incredibly interesting and at times tragic life, these are just a few things that happened in his life that justify his nickname “Mi Vida Loca” (My crazy life).

Born on February 13, 1967 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Johnny’s father had reportedly already been murdered. At the age of seven Johnny was riding on a bus that drove off a 100 foot cliff, throwing a pregnant woman seating next to him out the window to her death. Johnny was also thrown through the window but escaped with only a concussion.

When Johnny was only eight years old, his mother Virginia was kidnapped, raped, hung, stabbed 22 times with scissors and a screwdriver, and left for dead by her assailant. Johnny recalls being awakened in the middle of the night by his mothers screams. When he looked out the window Johnny saw his mother chained in the back of a pickup truck. He woke up his grandparents to tell them what he’d seen, but they didn’t believe him thinking it was just the overactive imagination of an eight year old boy and sent him back to bed. Tapia says he is still haunted by these memories to this day.

Because of his age (8 years) Johnny was never permitted to see his mother as she lie in a comma in her hospital bed. Unfortunately Johnny was never able to say good-bye to his mother before she died four days after the attack without regaining consciousness.

From that point on Tapia was raised by his grandparents. He turned to boxing at the age of nine and the horizon appeared to be brighter. Tapia put together a 101-21 with 65 KO’s amateur career that included two National Golden Gloves titles. Tapia turned pro in March of 1988 and put together a 21-0-1 with 12 KO’s unbeaten streak along with the United States Boxing Association (USBA) junior bantamweight title.

Johnny was a natural when it came to boxing and his early success in the ring quickly led to fame and fortune. If his life stayed on this path Tapia’s career would have been a dream come true for any young man set on making his mark in the sweet science. Unfortunately it didn’t take long for Johnny’s inner demons to surface which lead to a life of cocaine addiction, several DWI convictions and an arrest record that grew to over 125 pages, resulting in repeated stays in the Bernalillo County Detention Center.

With a world title shot in his future, Tapia tested positive for cocaine three times between 1990 and 1991. The positive drug tests lead to a three year suspension from the sport that held the key to his dreams. During his three year suspension Tapia nearly died three times from drug overdoses.

Sometime in the future it’s very possible that some Hollywood scribe will write a script about the extraordinary journey that was Johnny Tapia’s incredible and sometimes tragic life.

Falling in line with his movie script life, after pleading guilty to the drug charges a year ago District Judge Kenneth Martinez gave Tapia a sentence that included him taking part in the VH1 reality TV show “Celebrity Rehab.”

When Tapia made an appearance on Van Tate’s Sports office Tapia talked of one day getting involved with young New Mexicans who might be struggling with substance abuse problems as well as giving guidance to up and coming fighters in New Mexico.

Given all the ups and downs Tapia has been through in his 43 years, astonishingly he has emerged as a gracious, engaging, and God-fearing man.

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