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Tapia Wins Bantanweight Title

December 6, 1998

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ Battered but still unbeaten, Johnny Tapia had no apologies after moving up in weight class to score a majority decision over WBA bantamweight champion Nana Konadu.

Tapia’s 12-round victory over Konadu may not have satisfied the fans, but that’s OK, he said.

``You got to understand, I wasn’t fighting for the crowd. I have a tendency to fight for the crowd,″ said Tapia, who sustained a vicious cut on his nose and smaller ones on his right eye and forehead. He said they were the result of accidental head-butts.

Judges John Poturaj and Uriel Aguilera scored it 115-112 and 116-111, respectively, for Tapia, while Judge Franco Priami called it a 114-114 draw. The AP had Konadu winning 116-113.

Konadu, 33, of Ghana, dropped to 39-4-1 with a performance that had spectators booing and chanting ``bor-ing″ midway through.

Tapia, a former 115-pounder fighting for a title in the 118-pound class for the first time, circled around Konadu, moving side to side and stopping only to square up and throw his punches.

``I did a lot of angles and movement,″ he said. ``The canvas was very slippery, and I didn’t want him to come at me and slip and hit me with a shot.″

Tapia, 31, of Albuquerque, N.M., did get caught once: In the 11th, Konadu landed a solid left hook to drop Tapia. But Konadu was otherwise ineffective, spending his energy on defense instead of offense.

Freddy Roach, Tapia’s manager, said, ``It wasn’t the most crowd-pleasing fight, but I was happy with it.″

Tapia, a 115-pound champion who holds the IBF and WBO world champion junior bantamweight title, ran his record to 45-0-2. His purse was $450,000, while Konadu got $200,000.

If Saturday’s main event was a disappointment for the crowd of 6,124 at the Atlantic City Convention Center, the co-feature was far from it.

In that bout, hard-hitting WBA welterweight champion James Page survived a pair of knockdowns and five accidental falls en route to a unanimous 12-round decision over iron-jawed Jose Luis Lopez.

Page, 27, of Pittsburg, Calif., controlled the fight early but got knocked down in the third round when the slow-starting Lopez unleashed a right and left to the head.

Page was clearly stunned and sluggish after the fight resumed, but was saved by the bell. Lopez (42-4-2) never hurt him as badly again. He was credited with a knockdown in the seventh, but referee Tony Perez seemed to be the only one in the arena who saw it that way. Page said he slipped. The slick canvas caused Perez to call off half of the 10th round so workers could towel it down.

Page, meanwhile, threw everything he had at Lopez but the 26-year-old from Durango, Mexico, just kept coming at him.

``I felt how strong he was when I hit him,″ Page said. ``I thought he would at least bobble, but he didn’t budge. I was trying to stay focused, keep my jab going.″

The fight marked the first in Atlantic City in eight years for promoter Don King, who was banned from doing business with casinos here in 1994 because of a pending wire fraud indictment in New York state. The ban was lifted earlier this year after King was cleared of the charges.

The card, dubbed ``The King Is Back,″ included a flamboyant entrance by the frizzy-haired promoter, who was showered with confetti as he stepped into the ring accompanied by the Orange High School drill team.

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