I first talked to the kid when he was 5-0, and came away impressed with the look in his eye, and his tone when he told me he sought nothing less than getting to a level where he was winning titles, and along the way, thrilling the hell out of the fans watching.
Not so scientific or, admittedly, based on a firm foundation, informed via an assessment of technique and pedigree…
But my gut told me back in 2010 that Glen Tapia was one to watch…because if his technical game was anywhere near what I took his ambition to be, then the Jersey Boy was going to get to where he wanted to go.
That was March, 2010, and he was piggybacking off some of Kelly Pavlik's Top Rank buzz. Do a slow fast forward to last December, at Boardwalk Hall, home base to the guy Tapia looked up to in his ability to give a fan every dime of their money's worth, Arturo Gatti. Tapia was in tough against James Kirkland, a certified brain-pan shifter. And the kid, who turns 25 Dec. 11, ate too much. Too tough, too game, too stubborn for his own good, he over-ate leather. Kirkland stopped him out, TKO6.
The guy on the short end licked his wounds, very quickly moving past anything even slightly resembling self pity. Tapia pretty damned quick went into wounded-warrior mode, the one where a person of a certain mettle gets their tush kicked around some, but decides that this occasion will be a catalyst, not a deterrent to the goal, a cause to quit.
Tapia knew he needed to be refined a bit. The willingness to bang, bless his soul, it gave the fans that money's worth. But at what cost? You and me know some of the possible answers to that…not pretty.
So eight months ago, manager Patrick Lynch, you know him as Gatti's helmer, hooked Tapia up with Dedham Freddie Roach. And has that been paying off? I'd say so; on Saturday night at Bally's in AC, the Jersey Boy put the hammer down on Donotas Bondoravas, scoring a TKO4 win.
He'd bounced back after the Kirkland loss and got a TKO1 win over Keenan Collins, once again at Bally's, in June.
I asked Lynch to give me the lowdown from the fight, and where he thinks Tapia is today. “We were expecting a tough fight. I spoke to (Top Rank matchmaker) Brad Goodman the night before, and he said, 'If Tapia can get him out of there, that'd look great.' (Bondoravas is of Lithuanian stock i.e. doesn't cave easily. He's been stopped now three times, but one was from a cut, and the other came back when he was greener, in 2002.) The work with Roach is showing. He's different now.”
Freddie was not in AC, so Marvin Samodio worked the corner.
“Glen is thinking more in the ring. He has a very big heart, but now he doesn't waste any motion. He sees more of the ring. He's picking his shots, he's more composed. I spoke to some really astute fans after, and he really won them over, impressed them with his seasoning,” Lynch added.
Yeah, Roach can do that to a kid; I mean, Miguel Cotto is now being seen as a 50-50 with Canelo after some Roach time, this after being seen as being ready for the scrap heap over a year ago. Lynch: “I'm so happy he's with Freddie.”
But this being life, fate can be so damned rude while you're enjoying a sweet high. On Sunday, Tapia got a call his grandma wasn't feeling good. She'd actually watched his toddler girl on fight night. The boxer took grandma to the hospital. She was failing, though; the fighter's grandmother died at the facility Sunday morning, at 5:30 AM, according to Lynch.
“They are taking it hard,” the manager said of the fighter and his family.
It's sort of rude how life has to go on. Mortgages still have to be paid, yada yada yada. So Tapia will pay his respects, mourn his loss, hold grandma in his heart…and soldier on.
We should see him early next year, as Roach will be busy getting Manny Pacquiao ready for Chris Algieri on Nov. 22, in Macau.
“We will sit down with Freddie Roach, he will have a big say on what's next.”
And then, maybe one, two fights and Lynch thinks maybe it'll be time for a title crack. Me, I'm betting he snags one. I'm still going with my gut on this matter…
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—-Photo credit : Tom Briglia – Top Rank