alibi online

Free Will AstrologyAlibi's Personals
 

sports


In Memoriam

Albuquerque’s champion Johnny Tapia, revisited

“I’ll live and die here. This is my pride and joy, New Mexico.”

In November of 2003, the late, great Johnny Tapia welcomed the Alibi into his East Mountains home for a candid interview. The beloved brawler and Burque legend weighed in on topics including his relationships with Danny Romero and Mike Tyson, how family helped keep him afloat and what the broader picture of being a champion meant to him.

Former News Editor Tim McGivern's accompanying story fills in the gaps on how Tapia became the complex figure who overcame unimaginably tragic circumstances, yet always lived in the shadow of his horrific past. And Tapia's words ring with poignant prescience.

As for the Jerry Bruckheimer movie Tapia and McGivern discuss, Tapia's longtime friend Dennis Latta says that production—and several others—never came to fruition. Latta mentions that a Tapia documentary is in the works that will include footage from his June victory over Mauricio Pastrana—Tapia's last dance in the ring. Tapia died on Sunday, May 27, at the age of 45.

An interview with Johnny Tapia

Tim McGivern

Johnny Tapia loves his new house in the East Mountains. He calls it his castle and to satisfy his hyperactive personality he’s got plans to build a basketball court and swimming pool to go along with the modest boxing gym that fills-out his garage. Yet while Tapia, 36, has the energetic presence of a moth on a light, oddly, he says one of his favorite things to do is lock himself in his room, watch TV and “take my guard down.”

And that’s the mystery of Johnny Tapia. On one hand, he’s the friendliest and humblest guy you will ever meet. But on the other hand, he is a fragile figure, frightened by the tragedies of his past, who can shift gears from cheerfulness to sorrow to an intense seriousness at the drop of a hat.

The five-time world champion boxer wasn’t guarded about anything when Teresa Tapia, his wife and manager for the past 11 years, arranged for the Alibi to talk with him in his living room last Friday. In the fashion of a man who knows it can be good to be the king, Tapia sprawled back in his recliner at the start and said, “Why don’t you ask me anything you want.”

Heroic words for someone with Tapia’s tragic and checkered history. His father was reportedly murdered before he was born. He nearly died at age seven when a bus he was riding plunged off a cliff, killing the pregnant woman seated next to him and throwing him through the window.

To this day, he is haunted by the sound of his mother’s screams and his vision of her being chained in the bed of a pick-up truck the night she was kidnapped and violently murdered by her boyfriend—back when he was just eight years old.

Singeli Agnew
Following the tragedy, he was raised by his grandmother in the Wells Park neighborhood, where he started boxing at the age of nine. From that point forward, Tapia slugged his way to two national Golden Gloves titles as an amateur, five world championships as a pro and when he wasn’t brawling in the ring, he was fighting perhaps a fiercer battle with the ghosts of his childhood and his addiction to drugs and alcohol.

For example, it took nearly 25 years for his mother’s murder case to be closed. And not until the summer of 1999 did Bernalillo County detectives identify the killer, Richard Espinosa, who had died in 1983. Just weeks after Tapia learned the news, he had to fight Paulie Ayala in what was considered by some boxing analysts to be one of the greatest fights in the past decade. Although the outcome was a questionable split decision, it marked Tapia’s first loss as a professional boxer in more than ten years.

Like a true survivor, less than a year later, on Jan. 8, 2000, Tapia won his fourth world title against bantamweight champion Jorge Eliecer Julio before a capacity crowd of 13,000 fans chanting “Johnny! Johnny!” at the Pit.

His ups and downs as a boxer, however, pale compared to his chaotic life outside the ring. He’ll tell you about his struggles to overcome addiction to cocaine—a drug he calls “my mistress”—that has left him clinically dead four times and cost him several shots at a world title thanks to positive drug tests. His most recent overdose occurred this past January, when doctors and Teresa discussed funeral arrangements in a Las Vegas hospital just before Tapia revived himself and asked for a cheeseburger. “I was hungry,” he said in a recent New York Times interview. “I guess it wasn’t my time to die.”

His struggle with drugs and alcohol have led to a 125-page arrest record, including several DWI convictions, numerous stays in the Bernalillo County jail, numerous suspensions from professional boxing and getting kicked out of New Mexico for 18 months by a local judge.

His relationship with wife Teresa—the fact that she has stuck with him through the tough times—is perhaps as remarkable as anything he ever accomplished in the ring. And he’ll be the first person to tell you that. After charges of spousal abuse, including pulling a loaded gun on her when he was high on cocaine, Teresa gave Johnny one last opportunity to get clean. She locked the two of them together in their home for more than a month, allowing her mother to pass them food through a barred window. That was almost 10 years ago and what at the time seemed like the final step toward recovery was just another hurdle in his never-ending battle to stay clean.

Johnny and Teresa Tapia
Singeli Agnew
Johnny and Teresa Tapia
Today Johnny and Teresa stay focused on the future, with one-eye always carefully monitoring Johnny’s daily battle with addiction. Their story is set to become a major motion picture in 2005; famed Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Pirates of the Caribbean) recently purchased the story rights and Johnny and Teresa will be paid consultants on the project.

Are you back in New Mexico forever?

Oh yeah, I was born and raised here and I’ll live and die here. This is my pride and joy, New Mexico.

Do you still look in the mirror, especially when you are in the gym, and see the baby-faced assassin?

No, because you know I’m going on 26 years in boxing and I’ve done everything you can do in the sport. I fought like a champion. I fought like a contender. I beat everybody. There’s a time and place when you gotta call it quits. I talk to my wife. I talk to my boy, and I just said, “You know what, I got a few more left, suck it up, do whatever it is going to take to keep it going.”

Are you going to fight Danny Romero again?

No, me and Danny are close. They made the whole rivalry bigger than what it was. You know, he’s a good guy. His father took very good care of me. You can’t go wrong with that. But (back then) I was struggling, using alcohol and cocaine, that was my mistress, you know, because of the tragedy that happened. But to your question: Me and Danny are very good friends. We always have been. It just happened we had to see who was the king of Albuquerque and that’s the situation that happened. He was just at my house today. …

Do you guys ever spar together?

No. I only spar two weeks before a fight. But we’re working, you know, helping each other grow bigger and better. He’s gonna be a champion again, you’ll see.

So because you guys are so close, you can’t see getting back in the ring with him, even if that’s the fight everyone wants to see?

I’ll tell you, we’re friends so there’s not gonna be no more fights. Whoever’s in the ring though, I’ll tell you what, I’m gonna hurt ’em. I got the skills to pay the bills, you know.

Singeli Agnew

A lot of kids in Albuquerque want to be like you. Kids that go to Jack Candelaria Community Center and work out in the boxing gym. What do you say to those kids when they are looking at you and they see their dreams?

It’s hard to be a world champion. But I tell them look at who you hang around with and that will tell you who you are. If you want big dreams don’t follow the leader. They don’t protect you and take care of you. If you look at what I’ve done, a lot of people look at my history and don’t see what I’ve accomplished. When you fall you have to pick yourself back up to be successful. I don’t want to be a living proof, but I’ll tell you when I was in a coma, it makes you stop and think about who are your friends. … There’s a lot of bullies here, and I can’t stand bullies. I cannot stand bullies. … I’d say I would rather have friends than enemies. I got a (surrogate) dad who loves me, cares about me as an alcoholic and drug addict, not because I’m a five-time world champion. The situation is, I’m not an every day user, I’m a binger. To me, you can ask me anything you want, because I would love to tell you, so people can hear it, so they can learn from my experience. Everyone knows Johnny Tapia, the champion, the crazy guy. But I’ve got a beautiful wife that sticks with me through thick and thin. She can’t stand me sometimes, but you know what? That’s part of the relationship.

What they call tough love.

I tell you one thing, and I don’t mean any disrespect, but I’ve taken her through hell. Every time I die, I wake up and she’s right there next to me. That’s why I tell you to feel free to ask me anything. Because if there is a 100 kids out there and I get one to listen, then that makes me feel good. Seeing a smile on someone’s face.

Talk a little more about your message to kids.

My message is don’t be a follower, be a leader. You know, the first time you do drugs it’s a mistake, second time it’s a habit. It’s easy to go one way or the other. If I want to mess up, I’ll do it. I don’t put the rap on nobody but myself. If I don’t go straight, I can get divorced and be out on the streets away from my family. But those are the people that I really hurt—the ones that love me the most.

That’s what keeps you straight?

It’s every day waking up with my wife and kids. I got my Pops calling me every day. I’m not a needy person. But when I was going back and forth, messing up (gets emotional, pauses for a moment). …

How do you define love?

I don’t know love. I lost everything I loved when I was small. But when my wife puts her arms around me, or my boy smiles at me tells me he loves me, Pops calls me and tells me he’s really proud of me in my recovery, that’s what’s important. … I used drugs and alcohol to kill the pain. When I was young I lost my mom, my father. It was hard.

What’s your definition of a champion?

I’m not anybody. I’m just a guy that has a lot of problems trying to fix myself. Everybody in the boxing game knows me as Johnny the champion. But boxing is easy for me. I’m a natural. When I do have problems it’s out of the ring. I’ve always had problems out in the streets, but I’m taking my sobriety seriously. And I’m able to stay straight. It’s a lonely world out there, you know.

And a lot of people admire you as a survivor.

To tell you the truth, if my wife doesn’t hug me, or say I love you, I’ll cry. I’m a big baby. In the ring, you gotta kill me. If you don’t drop me, or put me a stretcher, I’ll get up and throw. I love the one-on-one combat. Nobody can help me; nobody can help my opponent. You just have to do whatever it takes. I’ve always trained like I was going to fight Mike Tyson.

You’re friends with Tyson, right?

Oh, we’ve been partners since the ’80s. We roomed together in the Junior Olympics when we were teenagers.

Do you stay in touch?

I talked to him about six months ago.

Do you see him now as a tragic figure?

I’ll tell you one thing, back in the ’80s he was the best in the world. But, you know, when you come into a lot of money really quickly, you run into a lot of yes-people. I’m not that kind of person. I’d rather you talk to me from your heart and say how you feel. (Teresa tells the story here of the last time Tyson called. It was just after Tapia awoke from a drug-induced coma in January. Tyson called to tell Tapia to see a psychiatrist or go to an institution, telling him he was crazy and needed help. Teresa recalled Tyson saying “I know I’m crazy too, so I’m authorized to tell you to get help.”) He’s a beautiful, intelligent person, who just got screwed up and now is just a money figure. You can have fame in two ways: You can have everybody saying yes, or you can have fame and still be around real people. A name will take you a long way, but money is very powerful. The real people will be right next to you through thick and thin. You find out who they are when you fall down. Without my fans, I won’t be where I am today. They have always supported and guided me in ways that they don’t even know.

I guess you’ve had a tough time deciding who you want to hang around with.

The truth is, sometimes it’s not about people that want to be with you, it’s about what they can get out of you. So you have to figure out who’s your friend and who’s not. I can go right now to Wal-Mart and sign autographs for an hour and a half and people there will be my friends. I can call my wife and my Pops and they’ll be there for me to hold me.

What will you do when you’re done boxing?

I’m going to call the pharmacist and tell them I want to be able to have four kids at one time (laughs). No, you know, if there’s a 100 kids out there and I can get one to listen, then that’s my job. I love to help people.

You want to work with youth?

If they call me, I’ll try to help. But I love being at home. This is my castle. This is my peace.

Being bored when you are a hyper guy can get you into trouble, right?

You know what, when stuff like that happens, I’ll call my wife and Pops. You know what really makes me happy, staying in my room. It’s all about keeping my life sober, getting my kids to go to college, explaining to kids and others that the way I went wasn’t the right way. College is very important. I wish I could have went to college. But you know what? I can’t complain. I’ve got food on the table and a beautiful wife that loves me; my boy’s as hyper as I am. But it’s not just that. I love to be in a room locked up, just a place to take my guard down. I enjoy that.

One last question about the new movie deal you signed.

Guess who’s playing me? Either Don Knotts or Gilligan (everyone laughs). Got you guys, huh? (Tapia’s smiling) Or, either Jerry Lewis.

Whoever it is, I hope they do a good job.

Yeah, me too.

news

The Daily Word in fiery semi, unchicken, stripper database

Minority births are the majority in the U.S.

A semi truck carrying lighter fluid just combusted on I-40.

If you're wondering why there are throngs of people in Albuquerque on Sunday, it's the eclipse.

Will drones spy on us?

Council plans for a stripper database delayed.

Tape dress. Neat.

The world's oldest yoga teacher is 93. And she's a badass.

Republican Super Pac plotting extreme attack ads about President Obama.

Limbless man attempting to swim between five continents.

Coffee drinkers live longer, says my new favorite study.

Fake chicken meat-maker promises new nonflesh will be even better than the real thing.

Gale-force wind in yo face.

news

The Daily Word in Kutcher, Munch and Love

Ex. Gov. Gary Johnson likely to get the Libertarian nod for prez.

Santa Fe carnival gave out live rabbits and turtles as prizes.

College student says DEA forgot him in a holding cell for days.

Credit is America’s welfare plan, says professor.

In a move that can only devalue the old-fashioned paper tome, publishers are planning to put ads on book covers.

Ashton Kutcher’s brownface Popchips ad pulled.

Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” sold for $120 million, making it the most expensive painting in the world.

Courtney Love’s art.

Lost parakeet tells police where he lives.

Most of us are outliers.

Who riots best? Sports fans or protesters?

How superstitions and rituals help you win.

Hello Kitty airline.

V.21 No.15 | 4/12/2012
Denver Broncos / Ben Hays

Sports

Bombs Over Bay-Bay

The Broncos’ budding wideout talks game time, overtime and Tebow time

Eleven seconds and 80 yards later, a perfectly threaded pass from Tim Tebow completed the shortest OT period in National Football League history. It also thrust 24-year-old Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas into the sporting spotlight with his swift sprint to the orange- and blue-shaded end zone.

[ more >> ] [ permalink ]

news

The Daily Word in NCAA, Clooney and portrait gourds

Lobos victorious, will face Louisville in the second round of the NCAA tourney.

Santa Fe's Casanova con man released from jail.

Jury finds Rutgers student who spied on his gay roommate with a webcam guilty of a hate crime. His roommate committed suicide.

George Clooney arrested while protesting Sudan's president.

50 Native American foster kids in San Juan County but only two Native American foster homes.

Feds cough up $4 million to help N.M. schools that are in bad shape.

Aboriginal attorney says Rodarte's fall fashion collection is sickening.

Skip the TSA security lines after paying $100 application fee.

Martin Chavez' former roommate has been accused of embezzlement. Problem for the campaign?

Osama bin Laden sought to kill President Obama so Biden would be prez.

Senators say we'd be shocked to know how the government uses the Patriot Act.

How the music industry works.

How to make a portrait gourd.

People who hate Radiohead.

Fruit flies drink booze when they don't get laid.

sports

Hangover Sports Roundup

Lobos rolling into conference play, Giants bury Falcons, Tebow pulls off another miracle

Lobo Basketball

Before the season started, fans and critics questioned the potential of this year's Lobos. Head coach Steve Alford imposed multiple non-conference tournaments into the schedule to test his team’s mental toughness. Based on its 14-2 record, it seems this team has answered the challenge. The Lobos concluded non-conference play last Saturday at home against North Dakota. Despite having starting freshman point guard Hugh Greenwood recovering from an ankle sprain, the team didn't miss a beat, with six Lobos scoring in double figures. UNM only had a 10-point lead at half time, but turned up the pressure and blew out North Dakota 85-57. Now riding a 12-game winning streak, the Lobos have an extended break before facing the Wyoming Cowboys, Jan. 14 at Laramie. Alford has his team performing extremely well, but there's no denying some of its opponents have been subpar. Only time will tell if this could come back and haunt New Mexico when facing the top Mountain West Conference teams.

NFL Playoffs

Tebow celebrates after an OT victory over the Steelers
Chris Schnedier/AP photo
Tebow celebrates after an OT victory over the Steelers
The New York Giants may be experiencing deja vu during their attempt at another Super Bowl run. An underrated Eli Manning, an average regular season, great unknown wide receivers and a furious pass rush are creating a lethal combination that could lead the Giants to the promised land. But first they had to take care of the Atlanta Falcons. The Giants defense tormented Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, enabling Giants QB Eli Manning to have good field position and throw for 277 yards and 3 touchdowns. New York only allowed a safety and dominated the Falcons, 24-2. Now the Giants must face the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers for a spot in the NFC Championship. The Packers will be the favorite, but to count out Manning and the Giants would be a mistake.

For those hoping the hype surrounding Tim Tebow would eventually disappear, they’ll have to wait at least another week. Besides Denver Broncos fans, anyone who says they picked the Donkeys to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers is probably lying. The Steelers were fighting injuries to key defensive stars and Ben Roethlisberger was hampered by a leg injury. But going into the game Denver was given little chance to pull the upset, considering they lost three in a row prior to Sunday. The unsung Broncos defense stopped the Steelers in the fourth quarter to force the first new playoff overtime. That set the stage for another Tebow miracle. It only took a coin flip and one play and Tebow delivered another miraculous victory. His 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas not only gave the Broncos the 29-23 win but also should guaranteed Tebow's job for next season. His stats aren’t always impressive, but there's no doubt when it's crunchtime, he delivers. Tebow has to prove he can put a full game together before he can be worthy of all the media attention. Keep in mind this is Tebow’s first season as a starter. If he can improve, it wouldn't be surprising if he rises to be an elite quarterback in the NFL.

news

The Daily Word in football, ScarJo and the Vatican

UNM hires ex-Notre Dame coach Bob Davie to be Lobo football's new boss.

APD fires belly-bumping officers who kicked a suspect in the head on video.

The toast sandwich is two pieces of bread around a slice of toast. It's the 150-year-old brainchild of Victorian food writer Mrs. Beeton.

Occupy Wall Street embarks on a nonviolent solidarity action, and has trouble with police in New York.

Art? Or stalking 14-year-old girls?

Avoid penile cancer by abstaining from bestiality.

Sexuality as a force for good.

The New Mexico Independent is done done. Almost exactly a year ago, the company got rid of its news team and hired part-time bloggers.

Mom of Sandusky's adopted son has concerns.

Clothing company folds under Vatican pressure and removes an ad showing the pope kissing an imam.

Politicians fumbling Spanish.

The people don't like Congress much these days. Know what that means? It's third-party time.

Google's getting into the music store biz. But there's no Prince. And no Zeppelin.

Katy Perry's Milli Vanilli flute fail.

Norwegians raise a viking ship using viking tools.

Is ScarJo a beard?

Some places in the world remain untouched by Facebook.

Life on Europa.

news

The Daily Word in Penn State riots, UC Berkeley beatdown and the 90-foot-wave surver

Local credit unions see lots of new accounts after Bank Transfer Day.

The city of Farmington tries to assure Navajos that the city is a safe place for them to visit.

N.M. rattlers provide venom for cancer treatment.

Perry screws up. Big time.

A 70-year-old machine gun that still works.

Dude surfs a 90-foot wave.

Someone stole a ghost bike.

A trailer park in Tesuque Pueblo is demanding proof of citizenship from renters.

Unseen photos of Marilyn Monroe.

Caviar lipstick.

Police beat protesters with clubs at Occupy demonstration at UC Berkeley.

Penn State students riot over the firing of their football coach, who is accused of covering up his assistant coach's child molestation.

There are no more rhinos in West Africa.

Ex-banker takes over Greece.

California had a law against euthanizing "downer" animals. The Supreme Court overturned that law.

Why is gold our basis for money and not something else?

The Leila texts.

V.20 No.44 | 11/3/2011
Monica and Lucas Coshenet, kickball teammates, married this year after meeting on the field.
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com

Sports

The Kickball Chronicles

Who’s on first? I don’t know, but I want to meet her.

Once found only on grade-school playgrounds, this is the dating game of this millennium.

[ more >> ] [ permalink ]

V.20 No.38 | 9/22/2011
Dave Smith, king of the Tanoan hill
Toby Smith

Sports

An Uphill Battle

Winners and losers confront the climb

Sixty-some women from across the globe are at the club this week to compete in the ColemanVision Tennis Championships, a United States Tennis Association Pro Circuit event. By the finals on Sunday, all of them will have confronted the hill.

[ more >> ] [ permalink ]

John Dodson
Sergio Salvador salvadorphoto.com

Sports News

The Lighter Side of Cage Fighting

Big opportunities for small fighters as the UFC warms up to a new weight class

MMA’s premiere league, the UFC, is catching on. President Dana White has promised a Flyweight division, possibly as soon as 2012.

[ more >> ] [ permalink ]

V.20 No.33 | 8/18/2011
Writer Toby Smith makes an attempt as Nick Hernandez calls out instructions.
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com

Sports

Against the Flow

Indoor surfing? Yeah, dude, it’s a trip. Just remember to knot those shorts tight.

Alibi sports writer Toby Smith attempts to hang 10—even after his wardrobe malfunctions.

[ more >> ] [ permalink ]

V.20 No.28 | 7/14/2011
Fans at Isotopes Park get ready for a game
Toby Smith

Sports

Heads Up

Making claim to a foul ball is seldom easy

Many of the signatures on Art Duran’s memento belong to players lost to time: Ray Katt and Al Aber, for instance. Four scribbles, however, were done by Baseball Hall of Famers: Leo Durocher, Bob Lemon, Al Lopez and Monte Irvin. What is most important to Duran, 77, is that he gained this souvenir during a game, not at some memorabilia show or off eBay.

[ more >> ] [ permalink ]

sports

Planking in Albuquerque

Why lying flat as a board is the new rage

Planking is what all the cool kids are doing these days. What is it? Apparently you just lay face down on any surface(s), with the stipulation that your body must be stiff. As a plank. That's really about it. It's kind of like parkour on ketamine—done by a sloth.
Being purveyors of all things hip and in-the-know, several Alibi staffers decided to explore this puzzling phenomenon. One finding was that your level of plank-coreness—at least in Downtown Albuquerque—can be directly attributed to how much pigeon shit you are willing to subject your face and torso to.
When I was a kid we used to have this thing called "sunbathing." You'd lay facing the other way, on comfortable surfaces like grass and sand. Not face down. Not in pigeon shit. Kids these days.

Join our mailing list for exclusive info, the week's events and free stuff!
 

  • Select sidebar boxes to add below. You can also click and drag to rearrange the boxes; close using the little X icons on each box. To re-add a box you closed, return to this menu.
  • Because you are not logged in, any changes you make to these boxes will vanish as soon as you click to another page. If you log in, the boxes will stick.
  • alibi.com
  • Latest Posts
  • Web Exclusives
  • Recent Rocksquawk Discussions
  • Recent Classifieds
  • Latest User Posts
  • Most Active Users
  • Most Active Stories
  • Calendar Comments
  • Upcoming Alibi Picks
  • Albuquerque
  • Duke City Fix
  • Albuquerque Beer Scene
  • What's Wrong With This Picture?
  • Reddit Albuquerque
  • ABQ Journal Metro
  • ABQrising
  • ABQ Journal Latest News
  • Del.icio.us Albuquerque
  • NM and the West
  • New Mexico FBIHOP
  • Democracy for New Mexico
  • Only in New Mexico
  • Mario Burgos
  • Democracy for New Mexico
  • High Country News
  • El Grito
  • NM Politics with Joe Monahan
  • Stephen W. Terrell's Web Log
  • The Net Is Vast and Infinite
  • Slashdot
  • Freedom to Tinker
  • Is there a feed that should be on this list? Tell us about it.
    CUNNINLYNGUIST
    CUNNINLYNGUIST4.20.2014