There were two events that disrupted the boxing world this past weekend, the death of Johnny Tapia and the career-ending motorycle accident of Paul Williams.
I have no way to compare these events, although for some reason I want to. I don't know why, and there wouldn't be a point to it anyway; I guess it's a matter of trying to sort these things out. I can't do it, but I can think about it.
I can't imagine what Tapia's life was like, because what I've read seemed like an account of Satan's idea of a Funhouse. I was marginally aware of him as a fighter, but had no idea what the rest of his life had been like until his death inspired accounts of it. I don't know what it was like to have been raised as a "pitbull," as he himself said; to see my mother abducted (and later murdered); to have believed my father had been murdered before my birth, only to discover only two years ago that he was alive but never wanted to say so; to be so fragmented by drugs that I would live my life as two different personalities. And I also don't know what it was like to keep going against these odds, and to win championships and know success. But, maybe, as a way of life, knowing no other, it would have just seemed like the way things had fallen out for me, and that's what I'd have to live with until I didn't anymore. I doubt I could have, but then, I don't know the course of my own life beforehand, and neither did Tapia. But, maybe he wanted it to come to some end; Eugene Banks gave a short account of a meeting he had with Tapia, which I found just heartbreaking, but it also sounded full of courage, acceptance, and understanding. I recently watched his fight with Ayala, courtesy of Matt Mosley, and it is a remarkable experience.
Williams is far from dead, and I am very, very grateful for that, but he will face a life nothing like the one he led before, and I suspect he will have terrible, hard, hard days in privacy, as he learns to live with this particular hand he's been dealt. He has a family, who can support and help him, but this will be no simple matter for them either, and I have to also think about what they will face as well.He was such an exciting fighter, and had such a remarkable early reputation as being a guy no one in his division would ever want to face. He had flaws, as we found out later, but I think that's partly what made him so exciting as a fighter, coupled with his obvious talent. I would hazard a guess that a lot of us were looking forward to the Alvarez fight, because there was the double interest of seeing how such a new and promising prospect as Alvarez would fare against a guy like Williams, who was so clearly so good, and who to me at least always looked like he was just about to do something spectacular, and often did. He did that something in the first Martinez fight, which I rewatched recently thanks to Oli Goldstein. Man, it is a classic. So, I don't know how, or if, I can measure these things. I guess I can only consider them against my own life.