Overview: TAPIA uses first-person narration and archival footage to explore the achievements, personal demons and ultimate redemption of the popular fighter known as Johnny Tapia who died in 2012 at age 45. The film is executive produced by multiplatinum award-winning musician, entrepreneur and actor Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and sports promoter, producer and entertainment executive Lou DiBella.
Rick Bernstein, executive producer of HBO Sports stated – “Johnny Tapia’s life story was an incredible journey, and we are eager to celebrate his biggest accomplishments and chronicle the toughest and most difficult moments of his turbulent life. Tapia was so much more than just a world champion, and we want to share this gripping account with our subscribers, many of whom may have seen Johnny in his five fights on HBO, but may not know the amazing story behind the fighter.” “Johnny’s is a story that needed to be told,” says Jackson. “Everyone can relate to some aspect of it, which makes it that much more powerful. Personally, his journey is one that has touched me greatly.”
Expectations: It is difficult to keep up with everything that comes out of HBO. One type of programming to get slighted over the years has been the sport documentaries from the network. We have usually put up a bulletin on this site that a sports documentary was about to air, but very rarely have they gotten reviewed. This one doesn’t get past us though. Hell, the trailer alone pulls you in.
Gut Reaction: I only recognize the big names in the world of boxing. I don’t follow the sport or know the rankings in the different weight classes or ever laid eyes on a PPV bout. I focused on this documentary as one to watch based on one of the quotes used in the press release. It is credited to producer and promoter Lou DiBella who said –
“This is not a boxing film, but a film about tragedy, triumph, demons and redemption. Johnny gives us an honest assessment of his strengths and frailties; he reminds us of the power and resiliency of the human spirit.”
That got me hooked and I’m glad it did. This 53 minute documentary on the life and career of Johnny Tapia is excellent. I’ll go as far as to say out of the biographical films seen on HBO in 2014 this one ranks high. Tapia’s life story is filled with pathos, mystery, danger, excitement and sadness all in one. You see the man’s highs and you see his lows. Those highs include some exciting bouts and title matches, many of which were seen on HBO. Man, he had a powerful combination of punches that took their toll. What took the biggest toll on him, though, was the cocaine addiction and depression.
What really made this story one to tell was that most of it was recalled from his memories and spoken from his own mouth. Instead of having others talk over and over about Johnny he sat in the squared ring, most likely at his own training center, and reflected on his hard life. As the film states in the end, Tapia died a month after the final interview was filmed. Though he had plenty of heart it was an anguished one and he died of heart failure at the age of 45. He left a powerful story that I am glad HBO Sports told and equally glad that I got it and reviewed it. Here is one last tribute to Johnny Tapia.
In Conclusion: A well done documentary from beginning to end. I have to agree with Dibella that, even though there were highlights from a number of matches in the film, it was not about boxing. It was truly about the inner soul of a troubled man who rallied every time he was in the ring. This is a documentary that should not be missed. It still airs on HBO on 12.20 at 11:30am, 12.22 at 11:00am, 12.28 at 10:30am and on 12.29 at 12:30pm and 10:30pm and also on HBOGo.