TG-You're Fighting Yory Boy Campas on July 28. What
are you expecting from him?
TA-What I've seen of him is that he's an aggressive fighter, a
puncher. He comes straight at you and he's going to make a
fight out of it. He's gonna try to make a war out of it.
I think my style of fighting is pretty well known to boxing people
and to people who have followed my career. I think it's
going to be exciting for as long as it lasts. I'm going to
fight as smart a fight as I possibly can and we'll see how it
TG-This fight is being televised on ESPN2. It's the first
time a lot of people have seen you since the 80's. Is this
more pressure on you?
TA-No, not really. I've never really given much importance
to cameras or stuff like that. When I was younger I fought
on NBC and if I were to let it get to me it could affect me, but
I've never been that kind of individual. I basically don't
care. I don't know of any other way to put it. It's
certainly a privilege. It's a blessing and I welcome the
opportunity to be on national television and gain the exposure.
But my job is very simple. My job is to get in the ring and fight.
And as long as I keep that up front and most important I think
I'll keep my priorities straight.
TG-You've been moved along gradually in your comeback. Is
this something you've wanted or would you rather be fighting
TA-I don't know how much faster I could be going. I've only
had five fights since I got out of prison. A lot of people
think I'm taking my time. But in comparison to the comeback
George Foreman made, how many fights did he have before he fought
anybody who had a recognizable name? Again, it goes back to
doing my job. My job is to train, to run in the morning, get
in good shape, and to fight. Who I fight, when I fight, and
where I fight is up to my Dad, Brian (Raditz, Ayala's adviser),
the promoter, and all the people who are involved in the business
end of it. My job is pretty simple. I get in the ring and
try to kick somebody's ass. I try to keep it very simple.
TG-If you could have one fight right now, who would it be
TA-Whoever I could make the most money fighting. I make no
bones about it. The bottom line is I'm 37 years old. I'm not
going to be doing this much longer, and I'd like to make the most
amount of money, establish myself and secure myself financially.
To do so for my family, and for myself, and then retire.
Personally I don't care who I fight as long as it's for the right
amount of money.
TG-You've mentioned fighting Oscar De La Hoya in the past?
Is that still a goal of yours?
TA-If De La Hoya would sign on the dotted line, we'd be fighting.
It's never been up to me who I fight. It's always been down
to who's wanted to get in the ring with me. That's something
that I felt was an issue even when I was 19. I don't care if
it's De La Hoya. Trinidad's been mentioned and I think he's
more likely to get in the ring with me than, say, De La Hoya.
I don't think De La Hoya will fight above 154, and it would take a
lot of hard work for me to get that low. If the fight was
made I would certainly make a try for it. There are other
marquee fighters, fighters that I think the public would find
interesting to see me fight. I think that fights with some
of these big names, these young kids that are out there, would be
very interesting, and could generate a lot of money.
TG-How do you explain your appeal to boxing fans after all
these years? TA-You know, it's kind of hard. I have come
across people that try to look through me as if they can get a
second chance. How many people wish they could back to
school and relive their lives and graduate, or stick with the
football or baseball programs, and follow their dreams. I am
so fortunate to have made mistakes, gone to prison, do 16 years,
come back out, and re-enter the very career I left when I was 19.
I think that's unusual, I think that's rare. I think people
recognize the blessing I've been given by God for whatever reason;
certainly by nothing I've done or earned. I think it's
beyond boxing. I think of the same people who follow Lance
Armstrong. He got cancer, and people wrote him off that his career
was over. The guy showed up, did his rehab, recovered, got
in shape and won the Tour DeFrance. I think people like a comeback
TG-How do you feel the media has treated you in your career?
TA-I've got no problem with the way they've treated me. For
the most part they've always been fair. Like in any
profession, for the most part it's very cool and people are
respectful. But you'll always get somebody who wants to go
beyond reporting, and who wants to get into your personal life and
dig at whatever dirt they can, for whatever reason. The
negative press that I got was a result of me having committed a
crime. And it should have been negative. It should
have been critical. I committed a crime against this nation,
I committed a crime against a woman. I violated her life,
and as a result of that I went to prison. I did my time, got
out. When I came out I think a lot of people were wondering
whether or not I had changed; whether or not I was the same
person; whether or not I was dangerous. Some rushed to
judgment and assumed that I was the same person and thought I was
saying the right things to get back into the good graces of
people. I think that over the course of the year and a half
I've been out it's been clear that they weren't just words.
I really did change, and I've turned my life around. I'm
certainly no angel, but I'm certainly not a criminal anymore.
TG-How has the negative press affected your family?
TA-I don't think they like hearing the negative or the criticism
about someone they love. I don't think anybody would.
I don't think my family is unique in that. I don't think
anybody likes someone they love criticized in the local or
national newspapers. But they handled it with class in spite
of the fact that it was hurtful. They shed a few tears, but
they believed in me. We all hung together, believed in each
other, and things have turned out pretty good.
TG-What differences have you noticed in fighters and in the
boxing world since you first fought back in the 80's?
TA-There's a big difference. Even if you go back to the
early 80's, when you had Leonard and Hearns and stuff, it seemed
that the quality of the fighter was higher. There were
higher expectations. To get on television in the early 80's,
you had to be a main event fighter, you had to have proven
yourself. If you look at TV today, I see guys on TV that
wouldn't get near a televised bout on NBC in the early 80's.
They wouldn't be allowed to be in the same stadium, and here you
have them on ESPN getting this national coverage. I don't
think they have to go through the same things to earn the right to
be a main event fighter; to be called good or great. It's
not on the same level anymore. Fighters nowadays, they pound
their chests and call themselves great before they've proven
anything. Whether it's good or bad, who knows? To be quite
honest, I don't really
care. I'm more concerned with my life. I don't
necessarily spend much time looking at fights. I'm not one
to be glued to the television every time there's a fight on.
TG-What's been the toughest adjustment for you since being out of
TA-The toughest adjustment has been realizing that I can't have a
good time 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. (laughs) I have been
enjoying myself every day. Basically, life is good for me
and people don't grasp what it's like to be free after spending so
many years being confined. I'm like a kid in a candy store.
I can do whatever I want when I want to. The hardest thing
for me, if you want to call it hard, is just being patient, I
guess. I haven't overindulged in anything, in my opinion
(laughs). Some people may have a different opinion. I
like having a good time. Some people think I'm kind of
wacked out because of that. I don't believe in wasting time
being miserable. I don't believe in wasting time being sad
or angry. To me, life is precious, and I realized that while
I was inside. I made a promise to myself when I was inside
that I wouldn't spend time being miserable or being around
miserable people. Time was too valuable for me. Maybe
sometimes people are surprised by how open I am and willing to
share what I'm
thinking. Sometimes it may come across as inappropriate, but
it's how I'm feeling or thinking at the time. I'll stop by
and talk to cashiers and be like 'hey, what's going on? How you
doin,?' just to stir up some conversation. I guess being
isolated for so long and now wearing different shoes by being
free, it's like I'd like to talk to the whole world.
TG-What physical adjustments did you have to make to your
TA-There were a lot of things I thought I had lost that are coming
back little by little. Some things have not come back.
I can't say things specifically that I lost or gained, but for a
while there, it was like a mental test. I had to go through
a period of time where I had to say 'can I still do this'?
Even up to where I fought my very first fight against Esparza, up
until a few days before, I was hitting the mitts and the timing
was off, everything was off. I had to lose almost 50 pounds
for that fight. Things just weren't clicking and I really
questioned whether I was doing the right thing by stepping into
the ring. Thank God I was guided right, and I was advised
correctly. I was patient, and I was wise enough to listen to the
right people. I stuck to it and things have gotten easier as
time has gone by.
TG-When you released you said that if your victim asked you to
stop fighting you would. Do you still feel that way?
TA-What I said was that if at any time the victim of my crime
wanted to sit down and talk to me I would even go so far as to
cancel a fight and leave wherever I was at to meet her wherever
she wanted to meet.
TG-Do you still feel that way?
TA-Of course, that will never change.
TG-Have you had any contact with her?
TA-No, and I don't expect the victim to all of a sudden want to
meet me or sit down and talk with me. She's been very
adamant about her privacy and I believe she has every right to
feel that way. It's something that I would certainly
respect, and I believe the media and everybody else should respect
TG-What is the biggest misconception about Tony Ayala Jr?
TA-I don't care (laughs). I literally don't give a damn.
I'll give you a good example. When I first got out, I was in
a club. We're sitting down, we were having a good
time, me and some friends, a bodyguard, some guys I had brought
with me from the East coast. We were at a long table, and at
the other side of the table there were these two couples. At
one point in the night, the guy reaches over and shakes my hand,
'man, I'm a big fan, I really respect what you're doing.' I
said thank you and he said 'but understand, my wife doesn't like
you.' She was sitting right next to him, she's looking at
me, and I said 'well, that's good. She has every right to
her opinion, and she has every right to feel the way she does.
If she doesn't like me, and if she's comfortable with that, that's
cool. I would only hope that she didn't like me for the
right reasons, not for some misconceived idea of what I'm like.'
If someone's going to form an opinion about something they should
at least investigate it and be fully aware of
what it is they don't like, and why. I think I tickled her
interest and we started talking. And before the night was
over, she was like 'man, you're nothing like I thought you were.'
Most people think that I'm this fighter, that all I think about is
fighting and violence; that I cannot interact with people.
They have these preconceived ideas that I like beating up women,
that I probably beat up my wife. They couldn't be further
from the truth. The fact is, I think very little of boxing.
To me boxing is just my job. I don't see it as a grand
sport. I don't see it as the best sport in the world.
I don't see it as the only thing in life. I don't think that
winning or losing a fight is the end or beginning of life. I
personally don't give a damn sometimes. I'm asked 'aren't
you excited that you'll be getting a shot at a world title?' I
don't really think about winning a world title. I don't
really care whether or not I ever win a world title. I'm
beyond that. What I'm most concerned about is the security
of my family. The security of my life, financially, the
paying off of this house I just bought. I'm thinking about
my future. What type of business am I going to enter after
boxing? Those are the things that concern me.
What stirs my thoughts and what tickles my interest is the state
of our nation. How society interacts with one another. The
fact that we still, as crazy and as stupid as it is, tolerate
racism and prejudice of some people, whether it's prejudice
against race, color, creed, sex orientation, or whatever.
The fact that we can't respect each other and each other's likes
and dislikes is really beneath us. Those are the things I
think about. I don't think about 'who's the world champion?'
or 'where am I ranked?' (laughs). To me, that's petty.
I think about crime. I think about the injustices that take
pace every single day in courtrooms. I think about innocent
people who are in prison. I think about people who were
guilty, done their time, but were not released because of
politics. Such as with my case. I did my time, I did
15 years, but I was denied parole not because of anything I did or
because of any behavior I exhibited while I was in prison, but
because politically that piece of shit Andrew was my parole
hearing officer, and he just wanted to make the politically
correct decision. I think those are the criminals in the
world, people who don't do their jobs but just take the easy way
out. I just rambled on, didn't I? (laughs)
TG-The best part of boxing for you is?
TA-The best part of boxing is the battle, when you're in the
trenches. When you're in the ring it's only you and that
guy. There are no politics, there is no help from outside
forces, aside from your corner. You're in the heat of
battle, and somebody wins, somebody loses. It's not
necessarily a thing where you always win. Sometimes there is
honor in defeat. You can lose honorably, but you can also
win dishonorably. All those things, that to me is the best
part of boxing. The competitive nature of it. The
honor of battling just one other person. You don't have
teammates to deal with or the other nonsense that often enters
The worst part about boxing is the politicians and the
corruption. It has nothing to do with the sport, it has to
do with people wanting to line their pockets. Corrupt
promoters that have an unfair influence on the rankings, and on
the careers of other fighters. Basically they make or break
careers. If you don't bow down to them they work against you, and
it shouldn't be that way. It shouldn't be about a promoter
liking or disliking you, it should be about whether or not I've
earned the right to fight for a world title, or whether I've
earned the right to be a main event fighter.
It's ironic that I'm saying it because I don't believe I have.
I got out of prison, got paid a lot of money, went straight to
fighting main event fights, and I'm sure that wasn't fair to a lot
of fighters who were busting their chops earning the right to be a
main event fighter and to get paid the kind of money that I got
paid stepping right out of prison. The only way I can
justify that is the fact that I can put the people in there.
Ultimately, boxing is about business. It's about generating
the most interest, the most money, and everybody walking away
happy about the work they did. So that's how I defend my pay
and the fact of where I'm at. There are some fighters that are
much better than me, but for whatever reason, can't draw flies.
I'm blessed in that. It's not because I'm great.
It's not because I'm the most handsome fighter out there, or the
prettiest, it's just because that for some unknown reason, God
decided to put his hand on me one more time, and I just hope he
doesn't take it away.