I don’t know all the fighters or even the champions of the many weight classes over the years; I’m a fair weather fan (there; I said it). So when I read about the death of former five-time world champion Johnny Lee Tapia passing away over the weekend (at the age of 45) I had no clue who he was.
After reading a couple of articles about his death I became intrigued and researched this guy a bit. All I can say is holy cow! This guy led a life that Hollywood could never even dream of making it the perfect choice for the next great boxing movie. It has everything--tragedy, drama, action, crime, violence, success, etc. It doesn't hurt that it's true either!
Four times he was declared dead and ended up walking away. Four times! Most people talk about cheating death in a metaphorical sense, but this guy actually did it and won.
Sadly, death had been a part of his life since before he was even born. His dad was murdered before he was born. His mother had so many horrible things done to her I hate to even repeat them.
After she had been literally destroyed mentally and physically she was chained to the back of a truck, clinging to life. An eight-year old Johnny tried to tell people in the house when he saw her, but no one believed him. The police later found her after she had crawled to the road over a football field away. She died within days.
It’s no surprise that he took to boxing at the tender age of nine. The fact that he didn’t self-destruct then is a miracle in itself.
From 1988 till his last fight in 2010 he had one incredible career as a boxer. It was more than a decade and 48 professional fights before he finally lost a bout, a fight that went on to be called the fight of the year in 1999. It would be one of only five fights that he would lose out of 65 professional bouts.
Battling the kinds of demons he must have been battling would have caved a lesser person in. He often turned to drugs to deal with them, which often led to his brushes with death (so he didn't always deal with them in the best way possible). Johnny Lee Tapia never thought he’d live to see 40. Actually seeing 45 was a treat for him.
The man was a heck of a fighter in the ring, but that is probably because he had to fight so much out of the ring to stay alive, let alone accomplish anything with his life.
Whatever producer buys the rights to his life story will not be sorry. The movie will be dramatic and very dark, but I have no doubt I will walk away with a much greater appreciation for life.
(Watch this guy fight! He was a beast!)
Article by Travis Pulver