Posted at: 01/07/2013 10:08 PM
Updated at: 01/08/2013 12:38 AM
By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4
Photo: Johnny Tapia
The Albuquerque City Council overwhelmingly passed a measure that names the gymnasium of the Wells Park Community Center after the late Johnny Tapia. The bill also allows a donated statue of Tapia to be raised in his honor on city property.
Several of Tapia’s friends, followers, and family showed up to the Monday night City Council meeting to show support for the bill.
"He used to say all the time ‘I was born and raised in Albuquerque and I'll live and die in Albuquerque,’” Teresa Tapia, Johnny’s wife, told the council. “Another thing he would say was, it's not how many times you fall down, it's how many times you pick yourself up."
City Councilor Ken Sanchez sponsored the bill and first proposed the idea at Tapia’s public memorial at the Pit shortly after his death.
"If Johnny met you for the first time, it's like he knew you his entire life,” Sanchez said. “He loved people and he loved Albuquerque."
Sanchez adjusted his original bill after learning that Wells Park Community Center was named after a city public official in the late 1940’s. The amended version of the bill only called on renaming the community center’s gymnasium.
The idea came with controversy. While many adore Tapia for a being a prized fighter who took pride in his hometown, others felt it was bad move for the city to honor a convicted felon and drug user.
The bill passed 8-1 with Councilor Trudy Jones being the only opposing vote.
"I'm sorry for Mr. Tapia's family, for the difficult life that he led, and for the addictions that caused him and his family so many problems,” Jones said. “But I think there are some people who we hold up honors like this for and some that we don't."
Sanchez said he hoped the gym’s name and the statue serve more than a look at Tapia’s past, but a way for the our troubled youth to look into their future.
"Hopefully for so many young people who are dealing with a drug problem, Johnny's life will inspire them to keep fighting and to never give up," Sanchez said.
The bill now moves to Mayor Richard Berry’s office to be signed into law or to be vetoed. It’s not likely Berry will veto the bill.