WAIL! The CyberBoxingZone Journal
September 2000 issue

An Interview With Tony Ayala Jr.

By Thomas Gerbasi

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 turns out.

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 contenders?
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 against?
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 story.

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 jail?
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 fighting style?
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 as well.

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 sports.

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.


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