Johnny Lee Tapia (born February 13, 1967), better known as Johnny Tapia, is an American professional boxer. He has won belts at featherweight, junior and world bantamweight.
Tapia was born Albuquerque, New Mexico. At age eight he witnessed the kidnapping of his own mother. She was tied up and taken away by a man. She was raped, and her body found next to a road a few days later. Tapia had problems dealing with that and started using drugs when he was a teenager. But he also started a career in boxing, and became an Olympic hopeful. While he was still addicted to drugs, Tapia built a record of 150 wins and 12 losses as an amateur. His opponents included Arthur Johnson, Richard Duran and Todd Foster during this period.
His professional career began on March 28, 1988, when he beat Efren Chavez by a knockout in round four in Irvine, California. He won eight fights that year, five by knockout, of which four were in the first round.
In 1989, he won seven more fights, including a first round knockout of Abner Barajas and a eight round decision against John Michael Johnson.
In 1990, he kept his winning ways, winning seven more bouts, including an eight round decision over Jesus Chong, an 11th round knockout of Roland Gomez in Reno that gave him the United States Junior Bantamweight title, and a twelve round decision over Luigi Camputaro, to retain that title. Tapia was, by the end of the year, becoming a known boxer, his name often appearing on magazine articles.
But his career took an enormous step backwards when he was found with drugs, and this time he was suspended from boxing for three years. He had to start over from scratch when he was finally able to return in 1994.
When he was finally back in the ring, he beat Jaime Olvera by a knockout in four rounds at Tulsa, Oklahoma. He won three more fights by knockout, and then he faced Oscar Aguilar at the Michael Carbajal-Josue Dickie Camacho undercard in Phoenix for the NABF Jr. Bantamweight title. He won that fight by a knockout in the third round. After that fight, Albuquerque Police claimed they found cocaine in a bag carried by Johnny five days later. Johnny claimed what the police found was only a soap bar, and then charges were eventually dropped. He defended the title twice before the year was over, with an eleventh round knockout of Henry Martinez and a second round knockout of Rolando Bohol.
On February 18 of 1995, Tapia was given a shot at WBO World Junior Bantamweight champion Jose Rafael Sosa. Tapia became a world champion in his own hometown by defeating Sosa on a twelve round decision.
He retained the title with a knockout in eight rounds of Ricardo Vargas and a decision in twelve against former amateur nemesis Arthur Johnson. After two more wins, he gave Willy Salazar a title shot, knocking him out in nine rounds.
In 1996, he fought seven more times, keeping his undefeated record and defending the title six times during that time. By then, a heated rivalty was cooking up between him and cross-town rival, IBF world champion Danny Romero. The fact that Tapia and Romero were allegedly members of rival gangs (they both claim to have abandoned gang life nowadays and Romero is actually a color commentator for Showtime these days) didn't sit too well with Albuquerque police, who were ready for anything during the event.
1997 saw Tapia fend off a challenge from Marco Antonio Barrera's brother Jorge Barrera, beaten in three rounds. After that, the fight with Romero was set for Las Vegas, and riot police in Albuquerque were on alert the whole fight weekend. The fight took place on July 18, but the only gang related trouble was when a Southwest Airlines plane, carrying as passengers two members of the gangs the boxers were related to, reported an attempt to fight by those passengers. Tapia won by a unanimous twelve round decision, to unify the IBF world title to his own WBO belt. In his next fight, he defended the belt in Florida against Puerto Rico's Andy Agosto, also by decision in twelve.
Tapia began 1998 by defending his crown against former world champion Rodolfo Blanco of Colombia by a twelve round decision, and then he vacated his World Junior Bantamweight crown, going up in weight to win the WBA World Bantamweight title. He beat defending world champion Nana Konadu by a twelve round decision to become a two division world champion.
In 1999, Tapia suffered his first loss, losing a twelve round decision and the WBA world title belt to Paulie Ayala in what Ring Magazine called its fight of the year. That year also, he tried to commit suicide with a drug overdose, and required hospitalization. Back quickly after that and his first defeat, he was given a chance at the WBO world title belt, and he became a two time World Bantamweight champion by beating Jorge Eliecer Julio by a decision in twelve at Albuquerque on January 8 of 2000. After defending his belt with a twelve round decision over Javier Torres, a rematch to unify the belt between Ayala and him was set up. In what became another candidate for fight of the year, Ayala edged out another close, split decision win; Tapia then went back home to prepare for his upcoming bouts in 2001, when he went up in weight and beat Famosito Gomez by a knockout in six, and former World Featherweight champion Cesar Soto by a knockout in three.
In 2002, Tapia travelled to London, England, for his first professional fight abroad. There, he knocked out Eduardo Enrique Alvarez in the first round, and after the bout, he was interviewed by, of all people, his former rival Danny Romero. Tapia's next bout was for the IBF world Featherweight title, versus champion Manuel Medina. Tapia won a close 12 round decision, joining that exclusive group of boxers who have won world titles in three different divisions. He left the title vacant so he could face Marco Antonio Barrera, who was able to avenge his brother Jorge's earlier defeat at the hands of Tapia by beating Tapia in twelve rounds.
Tapia came back on the night of October 4, 2003, defeating Carlos Contreras by ten round unanimous decision at Albuquerque.
Tapia has had many tattoos done around his body, and his tattoos are prominent when he is fighting. One of them says Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life), the nickname he has adopted over the last few years. He wrote an autobiography by that title.
He is nowadays a born-again christian and currently holds a record of 53 wins, 3 losses and 2 draws, with 28 wins by knockout.
Tapia was arrested in Bullhead City, Arizona the night of January 10, 2003 for resisting arrest along with his cousin, who is wanted on charges in New Mexico. He was not sent to jail immediately, but now he faces new charges for resisting arrest. After his arrest, he returned home to Las Vegas, and there, he slipped onto the floor, crashing his head against the concrete and having to be hospitalized in critical condition. He was in stable condition at first, but he recuperated and was later released.
On December 21 of that year, Tapia mistook a medicine that contained codeine, to which he is allergic, with Tylenol. He took the wrong medicine, and had to spend one night hospitalized as a result.