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Tapia, Romero get together for a little pre-fight lunch

July 17, 1997

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Johnny Tapia had long since run out of answers, so he pulled up his shirt to show off a tattooed chest set amid rippling muscles.

``See this? I’m ready, I’ve been ready. I can’t say anything more,″ Tapia said.

In was Tapia’s last public appearance before he meets Danny Romero in a 115-pound grudge match Friday night, and he was tired of answering questions about the biggest fight of his career.

Minutes before he had dedicated the fight to his mother, Virginia, who was killed when he was eight. He let his wife, Teresa, do most of the talking, both about his mother and the fight.

``Come Friday I’ll win. That’s all I have to say,″ he said. ``I refuse to lose.″

The pressure of weeks of training and months of hype seemed to have taken its toll on both Tapia and Romero as they got together for the final pre-fight press conference Wednesday.

Both already appeared to be in their fight modes, and neither had much to say about the biggest fight the junior bantamweight division has seen.

``I don’t know what to tell you guys,″ Tapia said. ``I’m just ready to get it on.″

Romero was nearly as succinct.

``I see the light at the end of the tunnel,″ Romero said. ``I’m almost there.″

The two Albuquerque fighters were separated by lunch at an unusual press conference, where they and their entourages were kept apart for fear of trouble.

Promoter Bob Arum denied that it was a gimmick to hype the fight, which was moved to UNLV’s campus arena after the Las Vegas Hilton dropped out because of reported security fears.

``We felt it was best for all concerned to have two separate press conferences,″ Arum said.

If Arum was trying to prevent any outbursts, particularly from the mercurial Tapia, he was more than successful. The news conference was as tame as it gets for a fight that promoters claim will help rescue boxing from its recent troubles.

``It’s going to erase a lot of bad tastes in people’s mouths from what happened in the Tyson fight,″ Arum said.

``This show Friday night is going to make people think of boxing in a much more positive light,″ said Romero’s promoter, Cedric Kushner.

The hometown rivals, who weighed together barely equal one Mike Tyson or Evander Holyfield, get their biggest paydays in a fight that will unify the WBO title held by Tapia and the IBF title that Romero owns.

Romero will earn $450,000 while Tapia gets $400,000 for the fight, which is expected to draw a crowd of around 10,000 at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

Tapia (40-0-2) is seven years older than the 23-year-old Romero (30-1-0), but the two have developed a rivalry that has split the city of Albuquerque into opposing camps.

Though in the same weight class and from the same town, the two couldn’t be any more different. Tapia is flashy and a showman in the ring, while Romero is a straight ahead banger who has knocked out 27 of his 31 opponents.

Outside the ring, it’s no different.

Tapia, who never knew his father and whose mother was killed when he was eight, was banned from boxing for three years for using drugs and is on probation for assaulting his wife, who is also his manager. Romero, meanwhile, presents a more sedate public image and is still trained by his father.

The scheduled 12-round fight will be televised by HBO, beginning about 7:30 p.m. PDT.

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