Editorial: Boxer Tapia’s struggles, victories will be remembered

Champion. Celebrity. Big-hearted. Troubled. Addict.

Every life is filled with victories, complications and contradictions, and so was the life of Albuquerque native Johnny Tapia. But Tapia's life was bigger than most, as reflected in the coverage of his death by the major news and sporting media and celebrity gossip sources from around the world.

The five-time world champion boxer died at his Albuquerque home on Sunday. He was 45.

In his 2006 autobiography, "Mi Vida Loca," Tapia detailed his decades-long struggle with drug addiction, his suicide attempts, his possible bipolar disorder and his arrests and convictions.

Tapia rose to the top of his profession despite these problems and against great odds. He grew up in poverty, lost his mother at age 8 when she was brutally murdered and never met his father until late in his life.

But Tapia was said to have found peace in the chaos of the ring. He was known for his lightning speed both with his hands and on his feet. He turned pro in 1988 and finished his long pro boxing career 59-5-2 with 30 knockouts. His five world titles were in three weight divisions — junior bantamweight, bantamweight and featherweight. He is survived by his wife, Teresa, who at times managed his career, and three children.

Controversial in life, Tapia remains the subject of debate in death. Some question the sport of boxing itself and whether someone with Tapia's troubles should be glorified. Others remember his boxing skill, his wit and his kindness to strangers. Some are calling for his induction into the boxing Hall of Fame.

Wherever one stands, Tapia's struggles and victories will be remembered.

— Albuquerque Journal

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