First and foremost, Jon Jones got lucky yesterday afternoon. Really lucky.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion had his day in court yesterday at Albuquerque’s Second Judicial District Court where he pleaded guilty to a felony count of leaving the scene of an accident. Judge Charles W. Brown read the plea agreement that was in place between the District Attorney’s office and Jones. With a few formalities, Judge Brown first let Jones know how lucky he was. He explained to Jones that he was lucky enough to have an assistant district attorney that treated him like a normal human being. As Judge Brown continued, he further explained to Jones that a lot of the ADAs in the county would have tried to have his head on a platter, so to speak, and make him an example.
Then Judge Brown gave his ruling of a conditional discharge. What that means is, with the plea agreement in place, Judge Brown gave Jones a few things that he needed to complete and if every requirement was met, the charges would be dismissed.
The craziest thing about this whole situation is that Albuquerque has seen this all before. The city has seen superstar fighters climb the ranks in their respective sport and division. We have seen them at the top of their game and, just as fast, we have seen them fall.
Jones needs to sit down and really study history so that he does not make the same mistakes. There is not a better template to look at when attempting to avoid a real bad downfall than the one right here in a smallish city more famous for a drug show on cable television than anything else.
Johnny Tapia was a shining star inside and outside the boxing ring. He was a devoted husband and father that fought for his family. He also fought a battle within himself. Tapia, like Jones, was a young prodigy with a bright future. He also had a quick rise to the top, not accruing a loss in his first 22 bouts. At that time, Tapia was on a roll so fast that it would have many a person’s head spinning. Then, after defending his USBA super flyweight title against Santiago Caballero in September 1990, Tapia failed a post-fight drug test, testing positive for cocaine.
The craziest thing is that the Tapia post-fight fail and the Jones pre-fight fail for cocaine in December 2014 are eerily similar. Jones was not supposed to be tested for recreational drugs because of the test being outside the time frame of competition. In Tapia’s case, the New Mexico Athlete Commission failed to test him after his bout the night of Oct. 26, 1990.
When the International Boxing Federation came to the NMAC for the test, the commission did not have one to provide. So, two weeks after retaining his title, Tapia was asked by the NMAC to submit to a drug test. Tapia at the time did not realize that he did not have to submit to the test so late after a fight, so he agreed.
Tapia was able to battle his demons long enough to climb to the top and win five world titles. But, yet again, the only person to really beat Tapia was Tapia himself. In 1999, after suffering his first career loss, he attempted suicide with a drug overdose that sent him into the hospital for a few days.
Tapia lived and, unfortunately, died by his mantra of Mi Vida Loca (My crazy life).
Tapia passed away on May 27, 2012 due to heart failure.
Jones, who is spending most of his time in Albuquerque this days due to his legal troubles, has no better text book to read from then the life of Tapia.
For Jones and, more importantly, his family’s sake, hopefully he has learned his lesson. If Jones really wants to look at the future that awaits him if he keeps going down this road, he should visit with Teresa Tapia. She will be able to give Jones the guidance to avoid the same pitfalls that unfortunately took her husband’s life sooner than anyone expected.
In the past, we have heard Jones say that this is the wake-up call that he needs to get everything together. Hopefully, this time around, it is. The only man who can beat Jon Jones right now is Jones himself.