As one of the finest prizefighters of his generation Johnny Tapia’s life has always been a back-page story, and more frequently than he’d prefer, a front page one too. News that the recently retired former champion has once again been found close to death following an apparent cocaine overdose will chill but not surprise those of us for whom Tapia has always been a hero. His biography, My Vida Loca – [My Crazy Life] contains more drama and turmoil than most people could pack into five lives – and within it – Tapia’s claim he’d been pronounced clinically dead six times following a drug and drink related episodes provides Freudian support for that conclusion.
A happy post-boxing prognosis was always difficult to countenance for the former Bantamweight and Featherweight champion and so it proved despite pre-fight statements that the 40 year old’s family life had provided the stability and meaning he appeared to crave. But within the same interview he also revealed that the uncontrollable demons still prevailed and his latest fall from grace further evidence that he is unlikely to ever tame his most persistent of opponents.
“Every day, I’m doing good. But if I want to go drink right now, I can,” he said. “Nobody tells me what I can do or what I want to do. I’m trying to do for my family and myself, but if I want to go party, I’ll party.”
Despite the predictability of his downfall, which no fan will enjoy witnessing, it remains sad that a man who provided so much entertainment and quality to boxing is unable to find a content place outside the ring. A childhood blighted by well-chronicled disaster; witnessing his mother stabbed at 8 years of old and already without a father, has endeared him to a generation of boxing fans and I’m sure they will join me in hoping Tapia recovers and finds the elusive happiness he richly deserves.
For full details of the latest installment, visit the always excellent si.com, who feature AP coverage of the story.