Sadly, another boxing great has cast aside his mortal coil and
moved forever from our sight. My wife told me the news this morning
that Johnny Tapia has passed away. I spent some time reading the many
articles and wishing there were something I could add, something I
could argue as they assessed a life cut short by violence, drugs and
despair. For once, there isn't much I can add. They got it right when
they declared it a miracle he had made it this far in life such were
the troubles he faced outside the ring.
His mother was brutally raped and murdered in front of him when he was 8 years
old. Told his father had been murdered before he was born only to learn 43 years later that he was alive after all. He grew up alone, angry, and filled with a kind of despondent rage that helped make him the boxer he would later become. He once described himself "as a pitbull...raised to fight to the
death." He seemed to live his life as a series of challenges he
hoped he'd lose. Drugs, gangs, violence and his own destructive
tendencies - these were the real life opponents Tapia fought time and
time again. A far cry from the ring where he reigned supreme.
Johnny Tapia was the poster boy for dichotomy. He was an addict
and champion; an uncaring fiend one minute and an earnest and loving
friend the next; he had a gregarious personality that seemed content
only when walking that fine line between exuberant life and the
melancholy depths of despair and death. His inner demons really were
too much to overcome. His upbringing was just too horrifying to
forget. He was a champion in the ring and a troubled soul outside it.
The two halves of his life were never meant to reconcile one with the
other - sadly, I feel that he has finally found the sweet release
from life that he seemed always grasping for.
His achievements in the ring were glorious. His skills as a boxer
were legendary. His life, however, will seem in retrospect the cold
dregs of a tortured soul as it failed in miserable fashion to provide
him with even the semblance of security and love he so desperately
I wish I had had the opportunity to know this man or to have at
least had his confidence as I suspect he had much to say about the
subject of life. I do not know how I would have felt about him as he
was notoriously volatile and prone to wild swings of emotion.
However, as a fan of the sport he was certainly worthy of our respect
as a ring warrior of the highest order, a giant little man who
thrilled sporting fans the world over. Not having had the privilege
of knowing him personally, I choose to remember him this way - arms
raised above his head in victory, an infectious smile upon his
scarred face. The smile always seemed so genuine, as if he were for a
few moments released from the private hell of the rest of his life.
I am sorry that I hadn't thought about this blog the past month but so much has gone on that I wonder how I could have made time for it. A quick rundown might make even the bravest of men quake in fear..my wife has had two operations in as many weeks, my uncle was killed, a doctor damaged a nerve in my foot, my daughter has three deadly food allergies, and I am in the process of completing a cultural heritage program while simultaneously beginning my masters education in history. Add to that my children and writing for Howard related projects and I can honestly tell you that I've been busy.
My last post was about my uncle's homicide and while I do not regret my initial reaction I must accept that it certainly didn't make for "good" reading. In retrospect, perhaps this wasn't the best place to report on his avoidable demise. If, however, you are wondering what has happened since my last post I am happy to report that my family has sought legal counsel and is moving forward to extract justice for his unwarranted murder.
As far as my family problems there seems to be a silver lining to my wife's pain. For three weeks, I hobbled around on my bad feet and attempted to be both daddy and mommy to my three children. This proved to be both difficult and rewarding. When my son Max was born it was clear that he and I would be bonded in a way that every father and son should be. When my twin daughters were born I was happy but detached. I was working, going to school and in the middle of a relocation that left me and the girls with little "daddy" time. These past weeks represented an opportunity to be a father to them in the same way I was for Max. It's amazing how much we can learn about ourselves in times of crisis, both big and small. We are all better for this time together, closer and in a kind of harmony that I had not believed possible. I am becoming as close to my girls as I have always been with my son and I like it. A lot.
So, forgive me my emotional roller-coaster. It's been a hard year for the grub. Thank God for my family and friends for helping me through all of this.
My next post will focus on one of my favorite series, written by John Maddox Roberts, entitled the Stormland series. This is without a doubt the best pentalogy I have ever read. I pulled all 5 volumes off of my shelf and will review each one in the coming months.I' also have some Robert E. Howard news to post in the coming weeks.
So, while it may seem business as usual - it is, but with a sad salute to what we all endure in our lives. To my uncle Eugene Benedict Gruber, I am going to miss you dearly. There's so much about life that we cannot control but as he would say, "Hell's Bells, Chris! Tell me something that I don't know - wouldja?"
I enjoy hiking and camping in designated wilderness, writing fiction, non-fiction, and poetry of all types - especially the work of Robert E. Howard. I also enjoy brewing beer, watching boxing matches and playing with my son.