SAN ANTONIO, TX – A call went into 911 on the morning of May 12 about a man who was slumped over. The medics arrived. The overweight 52 year-0ld man had gone into cardiac arrest. He died.
The man’s name was Tony Ayala. To most people that name doesn’t mean a thing. But boxing’s legendary trainer Lou Duva, who has seen them all, once said: “the only fighter I have ever seen who I would compare to Rocky Marciano [boxing’s only heavyweight champion to retire undefeated at 49-0] is Tony Ayala.
At 22-0, the 19 year-old Tony Ayala Jr. (his father, Tony, Sr. was also his trainer) was en route to a shot at the world’s middleweight championship and was on the verge of superstardom. He was set to fight super-welterweight champion Davey Moore in 1983, but was arrested on New Year’s Day that year for burglary and rape. He had two prior assaults against women, but only received probation.
Moore went on to lose his title to another legend, Roberto Duran, in 1983, while the undefeated phenom Ayala went to jail. Shortly after his release, Ayala began his comeback, 16 years later at age 36.
Five wins in a row over the next year, all by knockout, propelled his record to 27-0. If he continued on that path, it would be one of the greatest comebacks in the history of boxing, if not all of sports.
But it was not to be. He failed to answer the bell for Round 9 against the Mexican warrior Yori Boy Campas, and so, at 37, a demoralized Ayala cried in the ring, at the realization of having suffered his first ever professional loss.
Ayala would win his next four fights, though any talk of his reaching the top of the game subsided, and he fought for the last time, and lost, in 2003 against little known Anthony Bonsante, who proceeded to knock him out.
He went back to prison in 2004 for probation violation and possession of drugs, and was released in 2014, a month after his father’s death. He worked at the family gym until his last moments of life – it’s where he died.
And thus ended the tumultuous life of a brutally violent but supremely talented man. RIP.