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Johnny Tapia

John Lee Tapia (born Feb 13 1967 in Albuquerque, NM) is a five-time world boxing champion. He is nicknamed "Mi Vida Loca".

Amateur career

Tapia had an outstanding amateur career, and was the 1983 National Golden Gloves Light flyweight champion and the 1985 National Golden Gloves Flyweight champion.

Professional career

His professional career began on March 25, 1988, when he beat Efren Chavez by a knockout in round four in Irvine, California. He won eight fights that year, five by knockout, of which four were in the first round. In 1989, he won seven more fights, including a first round knockout of Abner Barajas and an eight round decision against John Michael Johnson.

In 1990, he kept his winning ways, winning seven more bouts, including an eight round decision over Jesus Chong, an 11th round technical knockout of Roland Gomez in Reno that gave him the United States Junior Bantamweight title, and a twelve round decision over Luigi Camputaro, to retain that title. Tapia was, by the end of the year, becoming a known boxer, his name often appearing on magazine articles. He also has a nephew currently going to school named Michael Tapia attending Justin-Siena High School.

But his career took an enormous step backwards when he was found with drugs, and this time he was suspended from boxing for three years. He had to start over from scratch when he was finally able to return in 1994.

When he was finally back in the ring, he beat Jaime Olvera by a knockout in four rounds at Tulsa, Oklahoma. He won three more fights by knockout, and then he faced Oscar Aguilar at the Michael Carbajal-Josue Camacho undercard in Phoenix for the NABF Jr. Bantamweight title. He won that fight by a knockout in the third round. After that fight, Albuquerque Police claimed they found cocaine in a bag carried by Johnny five days later. Johnny claimed what the police found was only a soap bar, and then charges were eventually dropped. He defended the title twice before the year was over, with an eleventh round knockout of Henry Martinez and a second round knockout of former champion Rolando Bohol.

Winning and defending the WBO Title

On February 18, 1995, Tapia was given a shot at WBO World Junior Bantamweight champion Jose Rafael Sosa. Tapia became a world champion in his own hometown by defeating Sosa on a twelve round decision.

He retained the title with a nine round technical draw with Ricardo Vargas and a decision in twelve against former amateur nemesis Arthur Johnson. After two more wins, he gave Willy Salazar a title shot, knocking him out in nine rounds.

Heated Rivalry with Romero

In 1996, he fought seven more times, keeping his undefeated record and defending the title six times during that time, which included a win against future champion Hugo Rafael Soto. By then, a heated rivalty was cooking up between him and cross-town rival, IBF world champion Danny Romero. Their rivalry had begun many years earlier when Danny's father trained both boxers. Tapia's split with the Romeros had not been on good terms. It was also rumored that Tapia and Romero were allegedly members of rival gangs although those claims were never substantiated (Romero is now a color commentator for Showtime).

1997 saw Tapia fend off a challenge from Marco Antonio Barrera's brother Jorge Barrera, in three rounds. After that, the fight with Romero was set for Las Vegas. The fight took place on July 18, the only related trouble was when a Southwest Airlines plane, carrying as passengers two members of the gangs the boxers were related to, reported an attempt to fight by those passengers. However riot police in Albuquerque were on alert the whole fight weekend. Tapia won by a unanimous twelve round decision, to add the IBF world title to his own WBO belt. In his next fight, he defended the belts in Florida against Puerto Rico's Andy Agosto, also by decision in twelve.

Two Memorable Fights with Paulie Ayala

Tapia began 1998 by defending his crown against former world champion Rodolfo Blanco of Colombia by a twelve round decision, and then he vacated his World Junior Bantamweight crown, going up in weight to win the WBA World Bantamweight title. He beat defending world champion Nana Konadu by a twelve round decision to become a two division world champion.

In 1999, Tapia suffered his first loss, losing a twelve round decision and the WBA world title belt to Paulie Ayala in what Ring Magazine called its "fight of the year." That year also, he tried to commit suicide with a drug overdose, and required hospitalization. Back quickly after that and his first defeat, he was given a chance at the WBO world title belt, and he became a two time World Bantamweight champion by beating Jorge Eliecer Julio by a decision in twelve at Albuquerque on January 8, 2000. After defending his belt with a twelve round decision over Javier Torres, a rematch to unify the belt between Ayala and him was set up. In what became another candidate for "fight of the year," Ayala edged out another close, split decision win. Tapia then went back home to prepare for his upcoming bouts in 2001, when he went up in weight and beat Famosito Gomez by a knockout in six, and former World Featherweight champion Cesar Soto by a knockout in three.

Winning & Dropping the IBF Title

In 2002, Tapia travelled to London, England, for his first professional fight abroad. There, he knocked out Eduardo Enrique Alvarez in the first round, and after the bout, he was interviewed by, of all people, his former rival Danny Romero. Tapia's next bout was for the IBF world Featherweight title, versus champion Manuel Medina. Tapia won a close 12 round decision, joining that exclusive group of boxers who have won world titles in three different divisions. He left the title vacant so he could face Marco Antonio Barrera, who was able to avenge his brother Jorge's earlier defeat at the hands of Tapia by beating Tapia in twelve rounds.

Comeback after Barrera Loss

Tapia came back on the night of October 4, 2003, defeating Carlos Contreras by ten round unanimous decision at Albuquerque.

Tapia has had many tattoos done around his body, and his tattoos are prominent when he is fighting. One of them says Mi Vida Loca ("My Crazy Life"), the nickname he has adopted over the last few years. He wrote an autobiography by that title.

He is now a born-again Christian and currently holds a record of 55 wins, 5 losses, and 2 draws, with 28 wins by knockout.

Personal Problems & First Knockout Loss

In his early childhood Tapia saw his mother being kidnapped. He tried to wake up others in the house but no one believed him. Later his mother was found seriously beaten up beside a road and she died at the hospital alone. Johnny or any other of the relatives didn´t know where she was. Years later the police found out that someone had visited the hospital and killed her mother, which probably couldn´t have been possible if the family had knewn where she was.

Tapia was arrested in Bullhead City, Arizona the night of January 10, 2003 for resisting arrest along with his cousin, who was wanted on charges in New Mexico. He was not sent to jail immediately, but now he faces new charges for resisting arrest. After his arrest, he returned home to Las Vegas, and there, he slipped onto the floor, crashing his head against the concrete and having to be hospitalized in critical condition. He recuperated and was later released.

On December 21 of that year, Tapia mistakenly took medication containing codeine, to which he is allergic, and was briefly hospitalized.

On April 15, 2005, he sustained an injury to his left eye but was able to continue and win a repeat match-up with Frankie Archuleta. That win came by ten round split decision in Albuquerque.

At 38 years-old, Johnny Tapia faced the little known Mexican, Sandro Marcos, in Chicago. In the second round, Marcos connected with a left-hook to the body. Tapia fell to the canvas, clutching his ribcage, as referee Genaro Rodriguez reached the count of 10.

Farewell fight, ongoing problems, & failed comeback

On January 17 2007 Tapia held a press conference stating that he will face Ilido Julio on February 23 in his home town of Albuquerque, New Mexico, then retire. The bout was being promoted as The Final Fury and Tapia promised he would win. Tapia won the fight by majority decision, 98-92, 96-94, 95-95.

One month after retiring, Tapia's son Johnny Tapia II will make his amateur boxing debut in March 2007.

Tapia was found unconscious and not breathing in a hotel room early on the morning of March 12, 2007. Tapia was hospitalized in critical condition from an apparent cocaine overdose at Albuquerque Presbyterian Hospital.

The next day, on the morning of March 13, Tapia's brother-in-law and nephew were killed in an automobile accident on U.S. Highway 550 near Bloomfield, NM, apparently en route to the hospital to visit Tapia. That same day, Tapia was upgraded from critical to serious condition.

Tapia was scheduled to make a comeback on May 2, 2008, in El Paso, Texas, but pulled out due to contractual disputes with promoter Ron Weathers.

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