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Boxer Johnny Tapia's 'crazy life' ends

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Mon May 28, 2012
Johnny Tapia fights Manuel Medina in a 2002 IBF featherweight championship bout at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Johnny Tapia fights Manuel Medina in a 2002 IBF featherweight championship bout at Madison Square Garden in New York.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tapia's body is found at his home on Sunday night
  • Foul play is not suspected
  • "I was raised as a pit bull," he said

(CNN) -- The crazy life of Johnny Tapia -- a five-time world champion boxer who once wrote that he had been "raised to fight to the death" -- ended this week at age 45.

"A family member came home, found him deceased and called us," Officer Robert Gibbs, an Albuquerque, New Mexico, police spokesman, said Monday.

Tapia's body was found Sunday night at his home in Albuquerque. Foul play is not suspected; an autopsy and toxicology tests will be carried out, Gibbs said.

In his autobiography, "Mi Vida Loca: The Crazy Life of Johnny Tapia," the fighter says that his father was murdered before he was born and that he was eight when he saw his mother murdered.

"She got stabbed 22 times with an ice pick and raped," he told "In This Corner With James Smith" in a 2004 interview.

Relatives raised him and he followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, who had himself been a boxer.

"I was raised as a pit bull," he wrote in the book, which was co-authored by Bettina Gilois. "Raised to fight to the death."

Tapia started boxing at age 9 and had his first amateur fight at 11. In 1988, he began is professional career, which was interrupted by bouts outside the ring with substance abuse followed by treatment in rehab centers.

"Four times I was declared dead. Four times they wanted to pull life support. And many more times I came close to dying.

"But I have lived and had it all. I have been wealthy and lost it all. I have been famous and infamous. Five times I was a world champion. You tell me. Am I lucky or unlucky?"

In 1990, he had just won a $1 million commercial for Pepsi when he "tested dirty and got kicked out," losing his boxing license, said his wife and manager, Teresa Tapia, in the same 2004 interview.

"That's when I met him," she said. "He was at his lowest, he was living on the streets. He did everything illegal that he could to make money. That was his life."

Fed up, she said, she locked him in her apartment, whose windows were covered with bars, and refused to let him out for six weeks while he broke free of the drugs' grip.

"All my goal is to see Johnny reach this ripe old age," she said. "I mean, I'll take him until 80 or 90 years old."

Tapia claimed two Golden Gloves awards in addition to professional titles in several weight classes.

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