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Five-time champ Johnny Tapia found dead | Boxing Futures

Five-time champ Johnny Tapia found dead

Posted on May 28, 2012

Johnny Tapia, the five-time boxing champion whose turbulent career was marked by cocaine addiction, alcohol, depression and run-ins with the law, was found dead Sunday at his Albuquerque home. He was 45.

The fighter was found by a family member who called police to the house at about 7.45pm on Sunday. The death didn't appear to be suspicious, Police spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Tapia won five championships in three weight classes, including the WBA bantamweight title, the IBF and WBO junior bantamweight titles and the IBF featherweight belt.

He was regarded as the consummate underdog by his fans. The more trouble he found outside the ring - including several stints in jail - the more they rallied around him.

In a 1990s-era feud with fellow Albuquerque boxer and former world champion Danny Romero, Tapia's fans anointed him with the slang Spanish title of 'Burque's Best'.

But his life was also marked by tragedy. Tapia's dad was murdered while his mother was pregnant with him. He was orphaned at 8, his mother stabbed 26 times with a screwdriver and left to die.

In 2007, he was hospitalised after an apparent cocaine overdose. Several days later, his brother-in-law and his nephew were killed in car accident on their way to Albuquerque to see the ailing boxer.

Tapia was banned from boxing for 3 1/2 years in the early 1990s because of his cocaine addiction. But he knocked out Henry Martinez to win the WBO bantamweight title in 1994, and won four more championships over the next eight years.

He last fought in June, outpointing Mauricio Pastrana in an eight-round decision. He finished with a 59-5-2 record.

Gibbs said an autopsy will be performed in the next few days.

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