Tapia’s tragic story told by HBO

If you followed boxing in the 1990s, you probably remember Johnny Tapia.

The former super flyweight and bantamweight champion from Albuquerque, N.M., was known for his entertaining style in the ring and a self-destructive lifestyle outside it. HBO debuted a documentary on Tapia’s life Tuesday and “Tapia” can be seen today at 11:30 a.m. and again at 2:30 p.m. on HBO Signature (Channels 212 and 202).

It’s a tragic story. Born and raised in poverty, Tapia’s mother was found stabbed to death when he was 8. He found boxing when he was 11, started using drugs at 15, and cocaine was his constant companion in his rise to greatness. Despite finding love in his wife Teresa, Tapia could never escape his demons.

In the hour-long documentary, Tapia gives a first-person account of the ups and downs of his life. He died from heart failure shortly before the final interviews for the project in 2012. He was 45.

In the ring, Tapia was 59-5-2 with 30 knockouts. Many local fans will recall his July 18, 1997, fight with Danny Romero at the Thomas &Mack Center, which was staged amid heightened security as it seemed all of Albuquerque had shown up to watch two of its native sons face each other.

Tapia won by unanimous decision. He would also have two memorable fights against Paulie Ayala in Las Vegas — a 12-round unanimous decision loss in 1999 at Mandalay Bay and another 12-round unanimous decision loss in 2000 at the MGM Grand Garden. He would fight one last time in Las Vegas — in 2002 — losing a 12-round unanimous decision to Marco Antonio Barrera at the Grand Garden.

If you’re looking to revisit memory lane or you’re a young boxing fan who has heard about him but never saw him fight, “Tapia” is worth the time to watch. Either way, you’ll be shaking your head wondering what could have been for this talented but troubled former world champion.

■ JESSIE RETURNS — Las Vegas’ Jessie Magdaleno will return home to open the 2015 local boxing calendar as the undefeated super bantamweight headlines Top Rank’s Jan. 10 card at Texas Station.

Magdaleno (19-0, 15 knockouts) will face Erik Ruiz (13-1, six KOs) in a scheduled 10-round bout. The two were originally scheduled to meet Oct. 25 in Fresno, Calif., but Magdaleno pulled out two weeks before the fight after his Las Vegas apartment was burglarized and he had to deal with the issues surrounding the break-in. It disrupted his training, and he decided to not fight.

Magdaleno’s last ring appearance came on Aug. 2 when he stopped Carlos Rodriguez in the seventh round of their scheduled eight-round bout at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. He has been living and training for the last two years in Palm Springs, Calif., working with trainer Joel Diaz.

■ SANTA CRUZ ADDED — The Jan. 17 World Boxing Council heavyweight title fight between champion Bermane Stiverne and Deontay Wilder will have more star power added to the card as undefeated WBC super bantamweight champion Leo Santa Cruz will be in action. Santa Cruz (28-0-1, 16 Os) will face an opponent to be determined in a scheduled 12-round bout.

■ BKB UPDATE — Big Knockout Boxing, a hybrid version of the sport that enjoyed a successful debut in Las Vegas last August, recently signed five fighters to contracts and is looking at a return to Mandalay Bay Events Center on March 28 after the Nevada Athletic Commission approved the date at its meeting Friday.

BKB signed middleweight Khurshid Abdullaev, cruiserweight Anthony Johnson, welterweight Javier Garcia and junior welterweights Herbert Acevedo and Gabe Duluc. Johnson, Garcia and Abdullaev all competed and won on the inaugural BKB card in Las Vegas.

BKB officials said an official announcement on its next show will be made in early January.

■ HOF BOARD — The Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame has made several changes to its executive board. The new board includes Vince Neil, who owns the Arena Football League Las Vegas Outlaws and has been the longtime front man for the rock band Motley Crue. Also joining the board are three members of the Hall — Top Rank matchmaker Bruce Trampler, former NAC executive director Marc Ratner and referee Richard Steele.

The other new board members are local businessmen Mike Politz and Keith Veltre, local television sports reporter Amber Dixon, former boxer Laura Serrano and boxing TV producer Jon Hait.

“I’m very excited Vince has not only agreed to join our board but he’s eager to help us get to the next level,” said NBHOF president and founder Rich Marotta. “As a rock icon, he understands big events and dealing with sponsors. Plus he loves boxing. His star power can’t hurt.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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