The truth behind the tragic death of a boxing prodigy who died at the age of 45 | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The truth behind the tragic death of a boxing prodigy who died at the age of 45

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LINE

A Legendary Fight

The name of Naoya Inoue, who holds the WBA/IBF bantamweight title, is widely known even in his home country of the United States. His performance against Nonito Donaire, who won RING Magazine’s “Fight of the Year” for 2019, has quickly raised his stock.

As Inoue continues his ascent to a level never before seen in Japan, there is one fight that is often cited in conversations with local journalists: the WBA bantamweight title fight between Johnny Tapia and Paulie Ayala, which won the “Fight of the Year” award in 1999.

The Tapia-Araya fight is still talked about by fans as one of the most historic fights in history (AFLO)

If Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, who had never actually fought each other, had fought, who would have been stronger? That’s the tone of the debate as Inoue vs Tapia or Inoue vs Ayala.

The fight, held in Las Vegas on June 26, 1999, more than conveyed the artistry and nobility of the sport of boxing. I watched the fight from the ringside press box and remember having goose bumps from the fifth round onward. From the opening round until the end of the fight, the two fighters did not back down from a single step and presented a high-grade offense and defense.

Alexis Arguerillo, who won three weight classes and was called the “Nicaraguan nobleman,” watched the fight live and said, “Without a doubt, this is the best bantamweight fight in history.

The then 32-year-old champion Tapia lost by a close decision, and Ayala won the belt. Before the fight, while the challenger’s name was being called by the ring announcer, Tapia approached him and pushed Ayala with both fists.

However, after the match, they both held up their rivals and showed respect to the other. Not only did the fight go well, but Arguello said the words “beautiful” as the two men walked out of the ring.

Thirteen years after this fight, on May 27, 2012, Tapia passed away at the age of 45. It was a life where he just couldn’t stop taking drugs. And just before “the fight,” there was a fragmented account of an event that shook Tapia’s state of mind.

In 2004, I met Tapia and his wife at the airport on my way back from a visit to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. We exchanged business cards and I said, “We would like to interview you soon. We would like to interview you soon and would like to spend three days with you before your next fight. They said yes.

After ten rounds of communication, I gave up on the idea of interviewing him.

After Tapia’s death, I heard a lot of information and regretted that I did not interview him. At any cost, I should have heard Tapia’s voice.

This time, I visited Tapia’s hometown and his resting place in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Although I could not interview him, I decided to meet his widow, Teresa, and his two sons.

My mother was raped and murdered.

Teresa, his wife, with her two sons, holding up the belt that her husband won.

New Mexico, located in the southwestern part of the United States, is a place where turquoise, gold, silver, copper, lead, coal, natural gas, and oil are extracted, but it is perhaps most famous for its annual balloon festival held every October. But perhaps the most famous event is the Balloon Fiesta held in October every year, where more than 700 balloons from around the world gather to create a fantastic sight in the sky.

It was in this land that Johnny Tapia was born on February 13, 1967. He never knew his father. “He grew up being told, “He was murdered before you were born.

It was a Saturday, May 24, 1975. Tapia’s mother, Virginia, left her eight-year-old son with her own parents and went out dancing in the night. As a single mother, Virginia was busy with daily chores and raising her child, but she used Saturday nights as a way to relax.

On this particular day, Tapia says, “Mom, don’t go today. Stay with me! Virginia said. Virginia says, “Don’t worry, I’ll be back.” She shushes Tapia with two bars of chocolate, “SNICKERS,” and heads for the meeting place with her friend.

That was the last conversation between Johnny Tapia and his mother. The next morning, Virginia did not return home. The next morning, Virginia did not return home, but instead, she heard that a woman wearing a white blouse and blue slacks had been murdered in Albuquerque.

On May 28, Virginia was found dead. She had been raped and then stabbed to death with a sharp weapon. Since that day, Tapia had never forgotten her mother in her white blouse and blue slacks.

She fought the thought that she was the killer.

Taken in by her maternal grandparents, Tapia had no time to come to terms with her mother’s death. Virginia was the oldest of twelve siblings. She began living with 15 elders, including her cousins, in a three-bedroom apartment. Fighting for food was an everyday occurrence, and when they got sick, they didn’t even have money to see a doctor. Tapia’s tears of remembrance for Virginia did not satisfy her hunger. Outside the house, the neighbors, who were six years older than her, would pick fights with her. The only way to protect myself was to stand up to them. Otherwise, I could not survive.

Many of my uncles and aunts were addicted to drugs and were in and out of jail and prison. It was not uncommon to find neighbors who had served time for murder.

At the age of nine, Tapia’s grandfather taught him how to box. His grandfather was an experienced boxer and had once been an amateur state champion.

Tapia was blessed with a natural talent. He wasn’t good at baseballs, golf, or any other sport that required a lot of standing still, but he excelled in basketball, tennis, gymnastics, and anything else he could get his hands on. When Tapia jumped rope in the gym as an elementary school student, everyone was amazed at his acrobatic technique. When Tapia began to compete, he went at his opponents as if they were his mother’s murderers. When he won, he did a brilliant backflip in the ring.

Although Tapia had emerged from the amateur ranks and was regarded as a potential world champion, he was unable to give up drugs. By the time he was old enough to remember, he had become an addict. At night, when he tried to go to bed, Tapia couldn’t sleep because he remembered his mother’s death. As a way to escape the pain, she turned to drugs.

In a moment, the thought of her mother’s death overwhelms her. The last thing I saw of my mother, dressed in a white blouse and blue slacks, came back to me. My hatred for the murderer who took away my beloved grew day by day.

In October 1990, Tapia, who was defending his North American super flyweight title four times with a record of 21 wins and one draw since his professional debut, was expected to challenge the world soon. However, his cocaine use was revealed and he was stripped of his belt. In addition, he was banned from the ring for three and a half years.

In the early spring of 1993, while under house arrest, Tapia fell in love at a barbecue party in Albuquerque. Teresa, who would later become his companion, was 19 years old at the time. She was 19 years old, working for an insurance company and taking Russian and archaeology classes at a community college in her spare time, with dreams of becoming a Russian interpreter in the future. Teresa was at a barbecue with her friend and her boyfriend.

“Johnny came to the office of the insurance company where I worked every day from that day on. He was usually a really fun guy.

Eventually, Teresa accepted Tapia’s love, and the two joined the family. They began to live in a small one-room apartment.

“Looking back now, those were the happiest times of my life with Johnny. It was a time when he abstained from all drugs and alcohol. …… We were able to spend our time together in a tiny little room that cost less than $500 rent. We didn’t have any money, though.

The house where Tapia and Teresa lived for less than $500 rent.

Darkness in the Heart

Shortly after they became husband and wife, Teresa was told by Tapia about Virginia’s murder.

I learned what a hard life Johnny had lived,” she said. There was nothing wrong with him; an eight-year-old boy could not bear such a heavy reality. Before I met Johnny, I had never known anyone around me who was involved in drugs. But there was a reason for that. I was determined to protect him. I decided I would protect him, I would support him.”

However, even Teresa could not erase the darkness in Tapia’s heart.

“She said to me, with a pained expression on her face, ‘I can’t stop thinking about my mother’s death. I can’t sleep. There were many times when he would disappear and stay with his dealers. In the ring, he was a great fighter.

The house Tapia left behind was plastered with records of his glory.

Soon Teresa was back in the ring with her husband as his manager. She was also in charge of running up the ramp and pouring sponge water on Tapia’s head during the intervals.

With 46 wins (25 KOs), no losses, and two draws, Tapia, who has won three weight classes (WBO super flyweight, IBF super flyweight, and WBA bantamweight), will be defending against Paulie Ayala, the second-ranked WBA bantamweight challenger. I’m 32 years old,” Tapia said as he entered training camp ahead of the Ayala fight.

“I’m 32 years old. That’s the age my mother died. I never thought I’d live this long.

Eighteen days before the game against Ayala, Tapia received a phone call at the camp. Normally, Teresa would have picked up the phone, but she had just gone shopping and had been away for 15 minutes. Tapia’s lawyer tells her that the man who murdered her mother was staggered by alcohol, hit by a car and died. Sixteen years had already passed since his death.

After hanging up the phone, Tapia sat down in the corner of the gym and couldn’t stand up. From then until the day of the fight, he was unable to eat or sleep. She couldn’t even go to training.

Teresa recalls.

“Everyone, including me, my trainer, and my sparring partners, felt that Johnny was not ready for the ring. But the fight was scheduled to be televised on SHOWTIME, so it was impossible to postpone.

It is true that Tapia slipped twice in the Ayala fight. This was unusual for a fighter with his excellent body balance.

How was he able to fight so well in such a state of mind? Now, I am once again in awe of Johnny Tapia’s ability.

( Continued from Part 2 )

Second son, Johnny Tapia III (age 16), training in the gym built in his home.
His eldest son, now 21, is training for his third amateur fight in the ring.
  • Reporting and writing by Soichi Hayashi Photo AFLO (first photo) Soichi Hayashi

Photo Gallery7 total

Photo Selection

Check out the best photos for you.

Related Articles