By Keith Idec
As difficult as it got at times, Glen Tapia thoroughly enjoyed his bloody battle against Abie Han.
The rugged junior middleweight from Passaic, N.J., stopped the previously unbeaten Han after eight rough rounds in Las Vegas on Friday night to win the NABO 154-pound title and earn a top-10 spot in the WBO’s junior middleweight rankings. While making the important jump from prospect to contender, the undefeated Tapia (19-0, 11 KOs) also achieved one of his goals as a professional fighter.
“I always wanted to be in a war,” Tapia said Saturday. “Watching Arturo Gatti fights, I would think, ‘Wow! I want to do that. I want to fight somebody that fights like me, that has a perfect style for me to go to war with.’ I didn’t think it was going to come in this fight, but surprisingly it did. I just showed what I knew I had inside of me, that I won’t quit and that I’m a warrior. This is what I’m made for. I love fighting like that. But I’m smart, too, so I’m going to show more than that.”
The 23-year-old Tapia performed well during a fight that represented a significant step up in class for both boxers, yet he knows he must improve if he is to become a world champion. That’s why he is somewhat dissatisfied with his victory over the 28-year-old Han (19-1, 12 KOs), despite its positive impact on his career and that it was a very fan-friendly fight that resulted in captivating television on ESPN2.
“I’m happy because the fans loved it,” said Tapia, who is co-managed by Pat Lynch, the late, legendary Gatti’s manager throughout his career. “But I’m kind of mad at myself because I know I can do more and I can show more.”
Tapia tired after hurting Han in the first round and aggressively pursuing a quick knockout. A resilient Han won the second round and later hurt Tapia with a left hook to the body with about 10 seconds left in the fifth round.
Undeterred, Tapia responded by winning the sixth round and seventh round, when he scored the only knockdown of the entertaining brawl with a right hand to the side of Han’s head that knocked the El Paso, Texas, native through the two middle ropes. That counted as a knockdown because the ropes prevented Han from hitting the canvas.
Tapia’s most punishing punch of the fight landed directly on the nasty gash on the left side of Han’s head, opened during an accidental clash of heads in the fourth round. Han, who also sustained cuts over his left eye and on his right ear, fought with blood all across his head and face throughout the second half of the brutal bout.
Following the eighth round, when Han was way behind on all three scorecards, his trainer, Louie Burke, determined he had absorbed too much punishment and told referee Jay Nady to stop the fight.
“He was real tough,” said Tapia, who didn’t suffer any cuts or injuries during the memorable brawl. “Most of the other guys I’ve fought, if I would’ve hit them with those punches they would’ve fallen and it would’ve been done. Fighting somebody that’s just going to keep coming, even though you’re hitting him, hitting him and hitting him, it was a good experience.”
Tapia probably will attempt to build on that experience Sept. 28 in Atlantic City. Top Rank Inc., Tapia’s promoter, has tentatively scheduled Tapia to headline a card that night at Bally’s Events Center against an opponent to be determined.
Top Rank’s plan with Lynch and fellow co-manager Sal Alessi is to build the humble, likeable Tapia into an attraction in Atlantic City, where Gatti was a consistent gate attraction for nearly a decade. Tapia’s plan is to analyze footage of his win against Han and get back in the gym to work on correcting the mistakes he made in the fight.
“I feel like I showed them that I’m more than just a prospect, that I’m a contender,” Tapia said. “That was my goal. Now it’s time to show them that I’m more than a contender, that I’m a great champion. That’s my next goal.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.