I was surfing around youtube and noticed highlights and commentary about the De La Hoya fight. I haven't really followed boxing since I was younger (even then I don't think I really followed boxing). But, I was reminded of a time when New Mexico and myself were captivated by a young man who had the chin of Marciano, the speed of a Sugar Ray Leonard, and the heart of a lion. Raised on the streets of Albuquerque, Johnny Tapia never forgot where he came from and took on the persona of fighting for his city. This came to a head when he fought cross town rival Danny Romero, the "pretty boy" who's life was in contrast to the rough background Tapia grew up in. After defeating Romero and essentially ending his career, Tapia gained the respect of thousands and earned the title of New Mexico's Champion.
I met Tapia when I was younger, and he was one of the coolest people you'd ever meet. I was with a group of friends and ran into him at the movie theater. Never forgetting his fans, he was more than happy to chat with us for a bit. Those kind of people are always special; members of a community who rise to prominence and can still appreciate those who are their fans. One of my favorite memories of Tapia was after defeating Romero, the Showtime hosts were all over him trying to get a post fight interview. Upon seeing his grandpa enter the ring he pushes past the interviewers to give his grandpa a hug exclaiming "grandpa!". Haha. Now that's someone who never let the lights get to his head.
In recent years, Tapia has gotten older and battled his own personal demons. Irregardless, he will always remain one the greatest fighters Albuquerque has ever produced. One of the most entertaining, exciting, and explosive fighters of his time; Johnny Tapia will always remain New Mexico's champion.
I was happy to find this video re-posted on youtube. Enjoy.