Johnny Tapia was one of the greatest boxers of his time. But winning world championships in four weight divisions was probably the least of his accomplishments.
That Tapia lived to be 45 is, unquestionably, his greatest feat. He lived a tortured, troubled life and was declared dead four times before finally succumbing to heart failure on May 27, 2012, in his Albuquerque, N.M., home.
Filmmaker Eddie Alcazar and executive producers Lou DiBella and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson have created a touching, yet haunting and chilling portrait, largely told by the fighter in his own words.
Alcazar interviewed Tapia extensively in the final weeks of his life, with the last interview being conducted just a month before Tapia's death.
"The movie haunted me, both positively and negatively," DiBella said. "Johnny's life was like a Greek tragedy. He had so many demons."
The film, which debuted last month at the Los Angeles Film Festival, details Tapia's extraordinary career as a boxer and includes a lot of archival footage. But it is far more than just a sports movie and is really a story of love, loss, perseverance and addiction.
DiBella showed the film to Jackson, the popular rapper whose mother was murdered when he was 8, just like Tapia's. Once Jackson watched it, he was eager to be a part of the project, DiBella said.
Tapia talks of how he pleaded with his mother not to go dancing on the night she was brutally murdered. He describes the anger he felt toward the murderer and how difficult it was that the murderer was never caught. Police said Richard Espinosa, who died in 1983, eight years after Virginia Tapia was murdered, committed the crime, though he never faced justice.
He is candid about his addiction to cocaine, referring to it as "my mistress." He tearfully explains why he felt guilt over the death of his brother-in-law and close friend, Robert Gutierrez, even though he was hospitalized and fighting for his own life at the time when Gutierrez was involved in a fatal auto accident.
He also tells of how he attempted suicide while on his mother's grave, stabbing himself in the stomach only to be discovered, rushed to the hospital and saved.
There is a lot of boxing in the story, with highlights from his most significant fights, but even someone who isn't a boxing fan would enjoy the film because of the shocking personal tragedies that Tapia endured.
DiBella said he is negotiating with several television networks, hopeful to reach a deal to sell the film.
It's a must-watch for those who are at all even remotely familiar with Tapia's story. It's a tragic story brilliantly and skillfully told.