When former world boxing champion Johnny Tapia passed away at the age of 45 on May 27 many people thought it was from a drug overdose or possible suicide. However, his wife Teresa Tapia announced on Aug. 23 that his death was caused by high blood pressure combined with heart disease. His widow held a news conference at Tapia’s Albuquerque gym and said the late boxer’s autopsy report said it was an accidental death which was caused by heart problems linked to Hepatitis C. It’s believed he may have caught Hepatitis from the numerous tattoos he had on his body.
Teresa Tapia said she wanted to make the recent autopsy report public to put an end to the rumors that her late husband had died from using illegal drugs. Tapia had struggled with drug abuse in the past and his boxing career suffered from it. He was banned from the sport for three-and-a-half years in the 1990s because of cocaine addiction. He was also sent to the hospital in 2007 due to an overdose of cocaine.
Teresa Tapia said that while the autopsy report states that he died of natural causes and not a drug overdose, the pain was just as bad and it doesn’t make it go away. It was widely believed that the boxer may have died from drug use since investigators found a Hydrocodone pill beside his body on the floor. However, they also stated that they didn’t find any evidence of alcohol or drug abuse at the scene, but he could have developed health problems from his past use of illegal substances.
According to Teresa Tapia, her husband did take medication for high blood pressure and bipolar disorder. Tapia’s friend and former doctor Sam Kassicieh said that after reading the autopsy he believes that his illegal drug use probably played some role in his passing, but it wasn’t the only cause. Kassicieh said he didn’t think there was anything that could have done at his stage in life to prevent the death. The doctor said he visited Tapia just a few days before he died and his blood pressure was fine due to the medication and there wasn’t really anything that could have been done differently.
Tapia was a popular boxing champion who retired with a career record of 59-5-2, with 30 KOs. He won a pair of amateur titles and five professional world titles during his career, which lasted from 1988 to 2010. These included belts in three different weight divisions, such as the WBA bantamweight championship, the WBO and IBF junior bantamweight crown, and the IBF featherweight title.
However, he led a tragic and violent life. By the time he was eight years old he was an orphan after his mother was stabbed to death with a screwdriver. His father was murdered while his mother was pregnant with him and the youngster was then raised by his grandmother. Teresa Tapia feels his past drug use and turbulent life finally caught up with him. She added that plans are underway for a feature film about her late husband.