Glen Tapia stepped up Saturday night in Atlantic City, against James Kirkland in a junior middleweight scrap. Tapia got the short end of things, as foe James Kirkland exhibited little to no ring rust and a stunning reservoir of energy after a long layoff.
Tapia had his moments in Round 1, and stunned the Texas-based Kirkland in the third, at the ballroom in Boardwalk Hall. But from then on the deck was stacked against the kid from Jersey who’s made no secret of his fondess for the career path of the late Hall of Famer Arturo Gatti, who prided himself on walking through of wall of fire to land a power punch. The ref, Steve Smoger, known as a let-'em-go sort of arbiter who gives man every chance to turn the tide, hopped in and waved the rumble off at 38 seconds elapsed in Round 6.
Fight fans impressed with the savagery and stamina of Kirkland (31-1), and the stubborn insistence on staying aloft by Tapia (20-1), watched the event on HBO and then went into worry mode when word went out that Tapia, a 23-year-old Passaic, N.J., resident, was taken to a nearby hospital. Coming so close on the heels of the Magomed Abdusalamov tragedy, in which the Russian heavyweight collapsed and suffered a brain injury during his Nov. 2 clash with Mike Perez at the Madison Square Garden Theater, the boxing community had fingers crossed that Tapia would hang tough, and pass muster at the hospital.
I checked in with Tapia’s advisor, Patrick Lynch -- who not coincidentally acted in the same capacity for Gatti, who was elected into the Hall of Fame last summer -- for an update on the kid.
“Glen is good,” Lynch told me. “His ego is bruised, but he is fine. He was released last night. We were there for two hours, everything [all the tests] came back fine.”
Good news then. While Tapia’s 24th birthday on Wednesday won’t be the festive occasion it would have been had he bettered Kirkland, who surprised after 20 months off because of a myriad of woes and entanglements, all involved have to be imbued with gratitude that Tapia lives to fight another day, and that it is mainly his ego that will need time to heal.