Tapia died of heart disease

2012-08-23 20:54

Los Angeles - Five-time world champion Johnny Tapia died of a heart disease exacerbated by prescription drugs, an autopsy report revealed on Wednesday.

The 45-year-old Tapia, who was found dead at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on May 27, died as a result of complications from hypertensive heart disease.

Prescription drugs were a contributing factor, the report said. The cause of death was an accident.

Tapia's widow released the results on Wednesday, saying her husband had no illegal drugs in his system.

Tapia rose to prominence in the late 1980s, and won five “world” titles in three weight classes: super-flyweight, bantamweight and featherweight.

His final professional record was 59 wins, five losses, and two draws. Thirty of his wins were by knockout.

In 2007 he planned a comeback bout against Ilido Julio. A month later he was found unconscious of a cocaine overdose. He was later taken into custody for violating his parole conditions, stemming from a prior cocaine offense.

Tapia was born and raised in Albuquerque. His father was murdered when his mother was pregnant with him, and his mother was murdered when he was eight years old.

SAPA-AP reports that Teresa Tapia said the report showed her husband’s death was a result of heart problems and the onset of Hepatitis C, likely from the many tattoos he had.

She told reporters she wanted to dispel the myth that her husband, who had struggled with cocaine abuse, died after using illegal drugs.

"This (report) shows that he did not die of a drug overdose. It doesn't make the pain go away, but I felt I needed to say that."

Investigators found one Hydrocodone tablet, a painkiller, on the floor beside his body. They said there were no indications of an overdose or alcohol use, but Tapia could have developed medical complications from past illegal drug use.

Mrs Tapia said her husband was taking medication for his bipolar disorder and for his high blood pressure.

Sam Kassicieh, Tapia’s former personal physician and friend, said after reading the report he believed Tapia's use of illegal drugs probably played a role in his death, but it was not the sole reason.

Asked if there was anything Tapia could have done to prevent his death, Kassicieh said no. "His blood pressure was under control," said Kassicieh, who saw Tapia four days before his death. "Nothing could have been done."

Tapia won the WBA bantamweight title, the IBF and WBO junior bantamweight titles and the IBF featherweight belt.

He was banned from boxing for more than three years in the early 1090s because of his cocaine addiction. In 2007 he was hospitalised after an apparent cocaine overdose.

"I think his heart was so big, it just stopped," his widow said, adding that a documentary and a feature film about Tapia's life were in the pipeline.