The boxing champ Johnny Tapia was found dead at his home. He was 45 years old. I did a video, above, about him when I worked for The Albuquerque Tribune. What impressed me most was how friendly he was. I went to a press conference, hung around for a bit to get footage, and he ended up inviting me to one of his sparring sessions. I can still hear the sound of his gloves hitting his trainer’s pads. Whap-whap-whap!
Check out this column about Tapia by a former colleague of mine, Richard Stevens. It’s a portrait of lows and highs capturing a bit of who the pugilist was to New Mexico and his fans. “As much as anything, Tapia has been a crowd pleaser in 62 professional fights that have brought him five world titles while turning his head into a mini war zone,” Stevens wrote for the defunct paper. “He has stood in front of fists since he was a small boy, and he has given Albuquerque and New Mexico one of their few links to world-class accomplishment.”