The crowd gasped and cheered as if they didn't know whether Johnny Tapia would win or lose. Some wore "Team Tapia" hats and jackets. Others dressed to the nines in celebration. Yet everyone knew how the story would end.
Victory and defeat aside, world title-holding boxer Tapia died
at the the age of 45 -- known forever as "the baby-faced assassin" who lived la vida loca, and
was "Albuquerque's champion." It was just three weeks after filmmakers
wrapped interviews for the documentary Tapia that the athlete died in his Duke City home in May of 2012, so Thursday's screening at the Lensic Performing Arts Center as part of the second night of the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival was in many ways still a farewell.
Angelina Dominguez, for example, came from Albuquerque with her twin brothers to see the show.
"We just feel like its a way of showing support. He died really early," she says. "He was hometown. A lot of lives are going to be touched. It's real. It was not fiction."
Although the film was primarily comprised of interviews with Tapia and footage from his storied career -- with the boxer gaining tattoos as he moved through time -- the documentary did feature a memorable moment with former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, who fought in the same tournaments as Tapia when the two were teens.
"He was a spic from the barrio and I was a nigga' from the hood," says Tyson, eliciting laughter from the crowd.
Filmmaker Eddie Alcazar didn't make the show, but sent a representative to say that he found in Tapia "an honest childlike essence searching for love" and a life "on par with Shakespearean tragedy."
The Film Festival continues through Sunday.