January 8, 2000
Tapia Regains Bantam-Title!
By Francis Walker
Covered with spiritual tattoos across his body and a burning desire to
reclaim what was lost, Johnny Tapia (46-1-2, 25KOs) returned home to
Albuquerque, New Mexico last Saturday to capture the WBO bantamweight
championship from Jorge Eliecer Julio (42-2, 31KOs) last Saturday at the Pit.
The homecoming marked Tapia first ring appearance since his controversial
12-round title loss to current WBA 118-pound champ, Paulie Ayala; a bout that
was voted as the 1999 "Fight of the Year."
Prior to Tapia-Juilo, promoted by Frank Warren's Sports Network and televised
on Showtime, Tapia funded a program in association with Albuquerque police
where fans that turned in a gun would receive a pair of free tickets.
Like Tapia-Ayala, Tapia had the entire house of over 20,000 fans and family
in the crowd on their feet throughout the contest. The atmosphere was
electrifying and most warm and welcoming for such a beloved hometown hero.
Suffering from drug abuse, crime, and the murder of his mother since he was
eight, Tapia entered his bout with Julio with one goal in mind… Tapia wanted
to show once again not only can you straighten out your life in due time, but
you can lose and still comeback from anything.
In this case, Tapia proved in his bout with Julio that a fighter can lose a
title and win one back.
Tapia's courage could not have been displayed any better during what most
experts would call a "remarkable career" than when he fought Julio. Tapia was
as sharp as ever, landing sharp combinations behind pressure right jabs
through Julio's guard. Tapia, who has excellent foot-movement and
elusiveness, punished Julio with ripping body-shots to the side of his
ribcage. Julio, widely recognized as a two-handed, power-puncher, countered
with sharp hooks and uppercuts, but Tapia would be nowhere to be found.
On occasion, Tapia would land three-four punch flurries that stopped Julio
dead in his tracks. At times Julio would be so frustrated with Tapia's
diversity, he would head-butt occasionally in the clinch and at one point,
grab and lunge Tapia on the canvas.
Tapia fought "fire-with-fire," but in an intelligent and professional manner
than Julio. Tapia stuck with his game plan of applying pressure to Julio with
combinations and slick ring movement. Julio was fighting as if he were facing
a guy who was a sitting duck. Tapia, unlike the other 45 opponents Julio has
fought throughout his career, knows how to slip punches and fight back with
It was clear Tapia was winning the bout single-handedly in the middle rounds.
Julio, in a desperate position, continued to head-butt and then elbow Tapia.
The challenger became so frustrated, he literally grabbed Julio and threw in
him down into a corner in the sixth round.
After a series of warnings, Julio was at last docked one point in the seventh
from the referee for throwing elbows.
The longer the bout progressed, the more Julio's confidence, skills, and his
championship seeped further and further away from his grasp. Julio could not
stop the right hand of Tapia, dancing away from and stepping forward with
ferocious power and a will to win.
With swelling and frustration marked across Julio's face, Tapia toyed with
the champion, who was said to be the toughest opponent Tapia has face in over
I didn't see any reason how or why that was the case!
At the end of 12-rounds of one-sided action, all three judges scored the bout
119-108, 118-109, and 116-111 for Tapia.
After winning the WBO bantamweight crown, which is unrecognized as a
legitimate world title, one would have to consider whether Tapia would be
recognized as a great fighter? Tapia has had many wars in his career and at
age 32, appears ageless. At this point, Tapia needs quality opponents, even
larger than Julio to solidify his place and an all-time great.
Tapia once again champion, Botha gets easy win
This has to be one big relief for Johnny Tapia. Last June, in what would
become Fight of the Year, Tapia fought wrong for one night and came out on
the losing end against Paulie Ayala. Something unexpected indeed was Tapia
losing his "0" into the year 2000, but it happened.
However, only 6½ monthes later, Tapia is once again a champion in the
Bantamweight division. Ending the 2½-year reign of Jorge Eliecer Julio. Julio
had become champion in July '97 with a disputed win over Oscar Maldonado. He
would later have some good performances, and bad performances. The bad ones
kinda stood out so it seemed relevant for him to lose to someone of Tapia
Tapia easily stole the first two rounds, quickly dominating the
Colombian. Julio would have a good round here and there but never got into
the match. Tapia dominated the entire way.
By the seventh round, Tapia got a bigger boost. Referee Mike Ortega
deducted a point from Julio for repeated use of the elbows. I actually didn't
see much of that, maybe my attention was blocked by the headbutts that seemed
to be repeating themselves more then the elbows.
Anyway... in his native Albaquerque, Tapia was the heavy favorite with
chants of "Johnny! Johnny!" singing into The Pit. The way he beat Julio was
the way he should have fought against Ayala back in the 20th Century. Now Mr.
Mi Vida Loca has held four titles in his illustrious career, which has only
one loss in 50 total fights.
Jorge lost for the first time in six years, humiliatingly dropping to
41-2. He had three prior title defenses before this match. His only previous
setback had been to Junior Jones. Of course, despite losing in unanimous
decision tallies of 118-109, 116-111, and 119-108 (and 117-110 on my
scorecard), he protested that he thought he had won the fight.
Tapia's record now stands at 47-1-2/26 KO's. The only thing that seems
right for him next is a rematch with Ayala. But it's reported that that is
not likely to happen unless he resigns a contract with Bob Arum. And you know
how it is in boxing now-a-days, it's all about the politics. (sigh)... Oh
Undercard action (or lack of it) provided us an easy victory for "The
White Buffalo" Francois Botha. Botha took on journeyman Steve Pannell, who
had no right sharing the ring with the Former Heavyweight Champion.
Simple Ending: Pannell comes out and throws everything he's got (which
isn't much). Botha shakes it off, by now Pannell is really tired. Botha drops
him not thrice and picks up a stoppage win despite the fact that there was no
Three-Knockdown Rule in effect in this scheduled 10-rounder.
Botha improved to 40-1 with 1 no-contest and 25 kayo's. Since losing the
IBF title after testing positive for steroids, he has gone on a tough-luck
streak. He was leading Michael Moorer before running out of gas and being
stopped in 12 rounds, he scored a few easy wins and then met Mike Tyson. He
was leading "Iron Mike" before flopping to a single punch in the fifth round.
After that he dominated Shannon Briggs only to earn an unsanitary draw.
Certainly, he has talent. And he is tough, but he needs to win a big one
to step up to the elite group in the heavyweight division. In his next go, he
is scheduled to meet 6'8" Ukrainian powerhouse/WBO title holder Vitali
Pannell, to no surprise, fell to 33-7. He has now lost four in a row, all
by knockout in two rounds or less (Hasim Rahman, KO'd 2. Vladimir Klitschkov,
KO'd 2. Ed Mahone, KO'd 2, and tonight's fight).
Anyway, it was a night of redeeming one's self and Johnny Tapia, and
Frans Botha in a way, took advantage of their opportunity.