ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Not all great fighters make great trainers, any more than all great players make great coaches.
What, then, about Albuquerque’s Johnny Tapia?
Smart and resourceful in the ring, the five-time world champion worked with some of the finest trainers of his era — Freddie Roach, Jesse Reid, Eddie Futch, et al. He also worked with trainers who had been great fighters — Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Buddy McGirt.
On the other hand, Tapia’s style was all his own and not necessarily one you’d teach to someone else. And did he really listen to any of the dozen or more trainers he employed during his career? He always seemed to be doing his own thing in the ring.
In any case, Tapia, 45, is training fighters at his gym, just off San Mateo NE. Several of his students are scheduled to fight March 31 on a card promoted by Tapia and his wife, Teresa, at the Hard Rock.
Lightweight Archie Ray Marquez (12-2, 8 knockouts) winner of his first 12 fights, sought out Tapia after losing his last two. Marquez is scheduled to fight fellow Albuquerquean Willie Villanueva (10-4, 2 KOs) in the March 31 main event.
Santa Fe junior middleweight Joaquin Zamora (18-4-1, 12 KOs), is working with Tapia with the blessing of his longtime trainer Al Lovato. Zamora is scheduled to fight on the undercard.
Tapia also is training his son Johnathon (0-1), who now is fighting as Johnny Tapia Jr., and junior lightweight Amanda Crespin (4-4, 1 KO).
Where his fighters are concerned, trainer Tapia certainly talks the talk.
Of Marquez, Tapia says: “I’m just (improving) him in his angles and his defense. I show a lot of my fighters angles so they don’t have to get hit.
“Archie’s got a mean left hook that he’s never used, and nobody’s ever taught him how to throw the right hand with a hook.”
Of Zamora, a skillful boxer but a notoriously slow starter, Tapia said: “I need to pick him up a little more and start him fast, because it takes four, five, six rounds to get Joaquin going. What I did is give him a fast pace with angles.”
The students give the teacher an A-plus.
“The thing is, Johnny’s Johnny,” Zamora says. “He works the heck out of me.
“How can you not learn from Johnny Tapia? The guy knows everything, the ins and outs. … He makes training fun; he makes it easy. I’m just enjoying myself.”
Says Marquez: “With Johnny it’s never the same thing. It’s always something new. You’re always learning things, picking up new stuff.
“It’s exciting. It’s brought the fun back into boxing.”
MALDONADO UPDATE: Albuquerquean Fidel Maldonado Jr. was equal parts patience and aggressiveness in his victory over Mexico’s Antonio Chuc in Cancún on Feb. 18.
Maldonado (13-0, 11 KOs) caught up with the defense-minded Chuc (8-11, 2 KOs) in the fifth round, dropping him with a left to the liver. Chuc got to his feet, but a barrage of shots sent him back to the canvas and ended the fight.
“He’s starting to mature into a well-rounded boxer-puncher,” says the Albuquerque southpaw’s father and trainer, Fidel Sr. “I love what I saw there and hope that continues.”
Maldonado is scheduled to fight the main event of an April 28 card at the Santa Ana Star Casino. Fernando Carcamo (9-3, 6 KOs), a significant upgrade from Chuc, is his scheduled opponent.
The Carcamo fight, a defense of Maldonado’s WBC Youth lightweight world title, is the Albuquerquean’s first scheduled 10-rounder.
TROUT UPDATE: The big fights and big money continue to elude Las Cruces southpaw Austin Trout, despite the WBA junior middleweight title belt he holds.
Trout (24-0, 14 KOs) is the mandatory challenger to Miguel Cotto’s WBA “Super” junior middleweight title. But Cotto is scheduled to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 5 for huge pay-per-view bucks.
Australian Anthony Mundine is the mandatory challenger to Trout’s “regular” WBA belt, but Mundine — trash-talking all the way — has said he can make more money fighting someone else.
“Austin’s been pretty frustrated,” says Las Cruces’ Louie Burke, Trout’s trainer. “We haven’t been able to land anything big.
“Nobody wants to fight him; it’s just too much of a risk (for prospective opponents).”
— This article appeared on page D3 of the Albuquerque Journal