After a life filled with triumph and tragedy, former boxing world champion Johnny Tapia has died of an apparent drug overdose. Tapia’s wife Teresa found him shooting up with a needle and Tapia was declared dead shortly afterwards.
Tapia had been declared dead four other times in his tumultuous lifetime. He was not just a fighter in the ring, but he was a fighter outside the ring as well. In his 2010 autobiography, “Mi Vida Loca”, Tapia said, “My name is Johnny Lee Tapia. I was born on Friday the 13th. A Friday in February of 1967. To this day I don't know if that makes me lucky or unlucky. When I was eight I saw my mother murdered. I never knew my father. He was murdered before I was born. I was raised as a pit bull. Raised to fight to the death. Four times I was declared dead. Four times they wanted to pull life support. And many more times I came close to dying.”
As an eight year old child, Tapia experienced trauma unimaginable to most people. He saw his mother raped and repeatedly stabbed with a screwdriver before being chained onto the back of a truck. Young Tapia tried getting help and when he reported what he had seen to family members, no one believed he had actually seen the violent attack. His mother died following the attack. Tapia was raised by his grandparents. He fell into a life of drugs and violence on the streets in Albuquerque.
He began boxing as a way of coping with his anger issues. He went on to become world champion in three different weight classes: super flyweight, bantamweight and featherweight. He was a true pro in the ring and never seemed to get rattled or shook up while he was battling it out. Tapia had a 59-5-2 record, with 30 knockouts during his professional boxing career. He was a professional boxer for 23 years-half of his lifetime. While he was an amateur boxer, he won over 100 fights. He earned the New Mexico Golden Gloves title and was also the National Golden Gloves Champion twice.
Tapia never expected to live past 32, according to a quote in his book, "My mother was murdered when she was 32. I didn't think I would outlive her. I never thought I'd make it past my own 32nd birthday. I didn't even want to make it past her 32nd birthday. After turning 31, I could feel that time was coming on. It started growing in the back of my mind, and it was always there in my head. I was counting down the days, weeks, and months to the time that I would be the age she was when she died. I started to feel that time was running out for me."
Tapia’s prediction came true on Sunday, when his time ran out.