Local fighter inspired by Rocky

By Mickey Winfield, PNT Staff Writer

Andrew Tapia was just 7 years old when the last Rocky movie hit theaters, but like many fighters, the story of the million-to-one shot helped inspire Tapia into the gym.

Tapia, 23, a cousin of five-time world champion Johnny Tapia, trains under the tutelage of 83-year old Chuck Haas at Clovis’ Roy S. Walker Recreation Center. He says the iconic boxing series has inspired him just as much as his famous cousin, and he looks forward to the sixth installment, Rocky Balboa, set to open nation-wide today.

“I don’t really have any association with my cousin that much, but I love the Rocky movies,” Tapia said. “I watch them every time they come on TV. Me and a couple of guys from the gym are going to go see the new Rocky as soon as it comes out.”

Tapia was born and raised in Clovis, and he’s been fighting for nearly four years, with a novice record of 3-3 currently fighting at welter-weight at 160 pounds.

“As a kid growing up (boxing) is just something I’ve always wanted to do,” Tapia said. “As I went on, and seen the Rocky movies it kind of pushed me to get into it and motivated me.”

Haas, however, doesn’t quite see it that way.

With more than 60 years in the sport, and 74 fights under his belt, Haas bears a striking resemblance to Rocky’s fictional grizzled manager Mickey. And he’s just as tough.

“None of these guys that are 18 or older, Rocky don’t inspire them a damn bit. It just don’t work that way.”

Haas says instead, that the Rocky movies generate a lot of interest in boxing from young kids, but that the fad quickly fades.

“When the first Rocky movie came out, I was in the basement over there at the Avalon Hotel,” Haas said. “And the night that the movie came out, when I came down to the gym on Monday, I must have had 50 kids in here from Gattis (Junior High) and not a one of them were going to be a fighter, but we did manage to keep three or four of ‘em. And I’m sure after this one comes out we’re going to get some phone calls.”

Every time Tapia watches any of the Rocky movies, he says he’s reminded of one timeless message.

“No matter where you come from, or how rough it is out there, you can still make good with your life. (Rocky) was from the streets and he grew up with nothing, and he made the best out of his life with boxing,” Tapia said. “That kind of gives a lot of the fighters out there a sign and symbol that says, ‘keep trying, keep pushing.’”