ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Teresa Tapia, the widow of former world champion boxer Johnny Tapia, has married her late husband’s half-brother.
Jeffrey Padilla, her new husband, was released from the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in the summer of 2013 and is on probation/parole stemming from his 2003 conviction on charges of second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and drug trafficking.
In 2010, it was revealed that Padilla’s father, Jerry, was Tapia’s biological father.
In an email to the Journal, Teresa Tapia said the two families had grown closer and closer over time.
Teresa said that after Johnny Tapia’s death as a result of heart disease in May 2012, leaving her a widow with three children, she leaned heavily on the Padillas.
The decision to marry, she wrote, was born of a mutual love for her late husband, concern for the children and a desire to keep Johnny Tapia’s legacy alive.
“A time came when we felt marriage between myself and Jeffrey Padilla would be the best for the children, for a continuation of their sense of family,” she wrote. “… We found common ground in our equal commitment to our efforts to support Johnny’s legacy and to promote his wishes through our ongoing activities continuing his support of young athletes, women and children at risk, and continuing that work through his boxing gym and the Johnny Tapia Foundation.”
Teresa Tapia established the Johnny Tapia Foundation, a nonprofit organization, in May 2013.
A phone message left by the Journal seeking comment from Jeffrey Padilla, 42, was not returned.
Jerry Padilla, the family patriarch, spent time in federal prison on charges of dealing heroin. He was released from prison in 1994, the same year another son, Jerry Jr., was indicted for cocaine trafficking.
Jerry Jr. is incarcerated in a Beaumont, Texas, federal prison, due to be released in 2015.
A grandson, Jerry III, also was convicted of drug trafficking.
During Teresa Tapia’s 19-year marriage to Johnny Tapia, she became the manager of her husband’s boxing career and often served as his media spokeswoman. Johnny Tapia, a two-time Golden Gloves national amateur champion as a teenager, compiled a professional record of 59-5-2 and won five world titles.
Plagued by a long-standing cocaine habit that kept him out of the ring for 3½years in the early 1990s, Johnny Tapia spent some five months in prison in 2009-10 after his conviction as a habitual offender. He continued to fight professionally until June 2011, then became a trainer.
After the charismatic boxer’s death, almost 7,000 people attended a memorial service at the Pit.
“We still feel the effects of his absence every day,” Teresa Tapia, 42, wrote in her email. “It has been a difficult time of grieving, transitions, changes and healing.”
In 2003, at his sentencing, Jeffrey Padilla – the reputed leader of the Los Padillas gang – said he had found God and asked for forgiveness from the victims’ families.