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Tapia's widow thanks fans

2012-05-29 10:01
Johnny Tapia (File)
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Sonny Bill Williams has put his boxing career on hold until after the last All Black test.

Los Angeles - The widow of five-time world boxing champion Johnny Tapia thanked his fans for their support on Monday, a day after he was found dead at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

"Today our family grieves the loss of a husband, a father and a close friend," his widow Teresa said in a statement.

"With Johnny, the world has lost not just a Hall of Fame boxer but a special person, a fighter in life and in the ring.

"I am appreciative of all the support and condolences we've received and I thank Johnny's many friends and fans for standing by in this difficult time."

Albuquerque police were called to Tapia's house on Sunday evening by a family member who found him there.

Police spokesman Robert Gibbs told the Journal that the death did not appear to be suspicious and an autopsy would be conducted to determine the cause of death.

Tapia, 45, was known for his battles with cross-town rival Danny Romero, Paulie Ayala and Marco Antonio Barrera.

He earned world titles in the super flyweight, bantamweight and featherweight divisions in a professional career that began in 1988.

But Tapia battled drug and alcohol problems throughout his career.

In 2007 he was hospitalised after an apparent cocaine overdose. While he was in hospital, two members of his family -- his brother-in-law and a nephew -- were killed in a road accident.

His struggles with addiction led to several brushes with the law and some time in jail, but it remained unclear on Monday if they caused his death.

"I know many people are waiting for news but as we await the results of the autopsy, I am not in a position to make any comment on what happened on Sunday," Teresa Tapia said.

"We will hold a public memorial service for Johnny to give everyone a chance to say good-bye."

Tapia was a favorite son of Albuquerque, where he rose to ring stardom despite his troubled early life.

In his autobiography, "Mi Vida Loca: The Crazy Life of Johnny Tapia," he wrote that his father was murdered before he was born and that his mother was murdered before his eyes when he was eight years old.

Teresa Tapia said the troubled fighter was also a generous and well loved friend of many.

"I know Johnny will be missed by everyone who ever met him," she said. "He was a special light in this world. He loved people so much, made friends with everyone so easily and kept those friends forever."

Tapia amassed a record of 59 wins, five losses and two draws with 30 knockouts.

His last fight was an eight-round unanimous decision over Mauricio Pastrana in Albuquerque in June 2011.

Read more on:    boxing
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