Paulie Ayala, from Champion to Boxing Promoter! - Interview
By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (Sept 30, 2009)    
No matter who you talk to if you mention Paulie Ayala they will say “did you see him and Tapia?” It was June of 1999 when Ayala wasn’t able to get a rematch with WBC champ Joichiro Tatsuyoshi that he took on a much bigger challenge in Johnny “Loco” Tapia, unbeaten in 48 (46-0-2) fights. It would be Ayala’s first HBO fight and he brought in a 27-1 record of his own.

Even before the fight started Tapia walks across the ring and pushes Ayala as a bulling tactic. “I was fighting Johnny Tapia. He hadn’t lost in 48 fights,” said Ayala. “I knew if I got into his head I would get him out of his game plan by making a noise every time I scored well inside. I knew I couldn’t outbox him so he fought my fight inside,” added Ayala.

In the 1st round Tapia completely won by outboxing Ayala. In the 2nd round he started with his straight arming, holding behind the head and use of his forearm. What he didn’t know was by standing in with Ayala he would be getting outworked. In the 3rd round it looked like a right hook by Ayala knocked Tapia off balance and his glove touched the canvas, but referee Joe Cortez ruled it a slip. Even when Tapia would extend his arms out (apologetic like) to Ayala after getting warned Ayala would have nothing to do with it. A ringside commentator even mentioned how Ayala was not intimidated by the Tapia mystic. By the 10th round Tapia was starting to show some desperation sensing he may be behind. Even the ring announcers seemed split on who they were favoring. The fans had been yelling “Paulie, Paulie” throughout the fight. At the end of the 11th round Ayala’s beautiful wife Leti was cheering “bring it home.” Tapia’s lead trainer Freddie Roach was encouraging him to box. Two of the three commentators had Tapia ahead going into the final round though I didn’t agree. As the bell ended the fight Ayala walked halfway across the ring and fell to his knees with his arms raised upwards. Tapia’s cornerman lifted him off the canvas. This was Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year and Ayala’s reward was Ring’s Fighter of the Year! It was at Mandalay’s Bay Resort and Casino, in Las Vegas and when it was over the scores were read 116-113 twice and 115-114 for the “new” WBA bantamweight champion Paulie Ayala!

“I came to the gym when I was 4 years old. I had over 300 amateur fights,” said Ayala. All of a sudden as we were talking on the phone I could hear “happy birthday to you” and I asked if there was a party going on. He said yes and I told him we will talk later. Having been married I thought I hope it wasn’t his wife’s birthday. To my surprise I got an e-mail apologizing for celebrating her birthday over the week-end. I remember seeing Ayala’s wife, Leti, who served as his manager. She could not have been any sweeter on the phone. It almost made me want to be married again. Well, maybe it didn’t quite, but she was as nice as can be. Then I found out later she was a pastor’s daughter. “I wanted to date her so I had to go to church with her,” said Ayala. It was his future father-in-law Pastor Raymond’s Truth Foundation church. “I was sitting in church and I heard his message for many months and one Sunday I took the alter call and at 21 was born again,” said Ayala. With the pastor’s passing years later his wife Silvia would become the pastor. I find it amazing over the past couple of years in what can sometimes be such a brutal sport in and out of the ring that one meets people with such a gentle nature. This I found in the Ayala’s. Like Jesus said “don’t judge meekness for weakness”.

In the 1992 Olympic trials, Ayala would be runner-up so he decided in November of that year to turn professional at the age of 22 in Dallas, Texas, in a 6 round fight. It was the semi-windup and he won the decision. Within a month of each other in 1993 he scored two stoppage’s, over Jesse Magana, 4-2-1, in the 4th round and Manuel Robles, 1-1, in the 2nd round, both in Dallas. Then he ended the career of Russian Evgeny Novoselov, 3-0, in New York’s Paramount Theatre in 6. Two knockout wins in Fort Worth and a decision in San Antonio followed. At the end of 1993 he returned to New York defeating George Acevedo, 6-0, in what would be his last 6 rounder.

In his 14th fight Ayala won the NABF title and defended it over 12 rounds defeating Mario Diaz, 25-5 who had lost his USBA title the fight before. In February of 1996 he broke his hand while defeating Roland Gomez, 24-10, in the 7th round. Two fights later he opened 1997 by defeating Chauhtemoc Gomez, 36-6, in his Las Vegas debut. His opponent had lost a majority decision 2 years previously in a WBC bantamweight title bout.

After his 25th straight win Ayala would travel to Japan in August of 1998 to fight the WBC bantamweight champ Joichiro Tatsuyoshi, 16-4-1, before 22,000 people. Ayala had been penalized a point for a head butt and later in the bout would cause the stoppage in the 6th round giving the champion the win by technical decision. Two wins later and then came the first Tapia fight as covered earlier.

After winning the title from Tapia, Ayala fought Saohin Srithai Condo, 28-8, the PABA champ, from Thailand, in Fort Worth. He was a Mu-Thai champ. “He hit me in the 2nd round and broke my cheek bone and caused my nose to bleed. My will overcame my injury,” said Ayala. He took the hard fought decision 117-111 on all score cards. In March of 2000 the European champion Johnny Bredahl, 45-1, had won 19 straight after his only defeat, to WBC champion Wayne McCollough for WBA title. “He was tall and lanky and difficult to go to his body though I was able to drop him in the 2nd round,” said Ayala. He would retain his title by majority decision.

It took 15 months but the rematch with Tapia finally came in October of 2000. Each fighter knew a little more about the other having fought their fight of the year previously. One could see the physical difference between the fighters with the extra weight this time. Tapia started fast and by the end of the 2nd round it was back to toe to toe fighting right past the sound of the bell. This was a very close fight through 10 rounds. Tapia may have had the edge in the 11th but Ayala came back and won the 12th and final round. Going to the score cards 115-113 (2x) and 116-112 for the champion, Ayala. Tapia had to be restrained in and out of the ring. A total of 7 points divided the two last time and 8 points this time. There were all different officials for this one even though it too was in Vegas. Though there was no title on the line and each fighter came in 5 and 6 pound heavier, they still fought a 12 round bout.

Next up for Ayala would be another defense in Fort Worth. This time, the NABF champion Hugo Dianzo, 26-5-1, from Mexico. ”I had a tough time making weight and knew this would be my last defense. He was an excellent fighter that I counter punched. In the 4th round he stepped on my foot and it was counted as a knockdown,” said Ayala. He would retain his title with scores 115-113 (2x) and 115-112. The fight was broadcast over ESPN.

Moving up to super bantamweight Ayala would be fighting for the IBO title against the former WBA champ Clarence “Bones” Adams, 41-3, in Las Vegas. HBO once again would cover this fight. Adams was 15-0-2 in his last 17 fights. He hurt Adams in the 2nd round. In the 11th a clashing of heads caused a cut above Adam’s left eye. “I took off the last round thinking I was far enough ahead,” said Ayala. It could have cost him since the decision was split, though in his favor. There would be a rematch on HBO 6 months later at the same Las Vegas venue. In spite of Ayala getting his one eye shut in the 2nd round he left no doubts the winner was in this one. Jesse Reid who worked with both Tapia and Adams was asked about these 4 fights. “Ayala was a very good fighter. I thought both fighters should have split (winning first fights) the decisions,” said Reid. For him to admit his two fighters only deserved a split is a compliment toward Ayala. Ayala was always a crowd pleaser because he never stopped throwing punches and usually outworked his opponents.

Once again Ayala was getting older and having trouble making weight at 122. It would be 9 months before he would fight again. Next would be Eric Morales who had just lost to Marco Antonio Barrera in their rubber match. He looked much bigger than Ayala though both came in at 126. This would be shown on Showtime and that’s when they started weighing in the day before the fight. Morales would win a hard fought decision over Ayala. It would be a year before he would fight again and it would be in Fort Worth. He easily won a decision over Edel Ruiz, 24-10-3. It was his only fight in 2003. In June of 2004 he took on Marco Antonio Barrera, 57-4, and found himself on the canvas in the 8th and 10th rounds. The fight was stopped in the 10th in favor of Barrera. “I had never been stopped before and I knew I didn’t want to continue boxing under these circumstances,” said Ayala. In September he surprised many boxing fans by announcing his retirement.

I asked him to compare Barrera and Morales. “Morales was much stronger, but Barrera the better of the two,” said Ayala. It’s been 5 years since retiring with a 35-3 (12) record. He defended his NABF title 6 times; the WBA title 3 times, plus the second Tapia fight. He defended the IBO title against Adams from whom he won it. Ayala is now eligible for the IHOF and with fellow Texan Orlando Canizales going in this year it would be a great addition for him to go in 2010.

On October 10th Ayala will promote his first show at LaGrave Field in Fort Worth. His brother Shawn will serve as matchmaker for Paulie Ayala Productions. The main event will feature the Texas Featherweight champion Casey “The Wizard” Ramos, 9-0 (4), of Austin, whom Ayala has signed to a promotional deal. Casey, from Austin, will be making his Fort Worth debut. He is an exciting young boxer that should fit in perfectly with Ayala’s group. His opponent Jose Morales of San Antonio, 5-1 (1) also has a fine record. Local fighter Chad Huggins, 6-0 (1) will also be on the card against Eloy Suarez, 11-6 (5), of San Antonio. Arthur Trevino, 4-3-2 (2), from Fort Worth will be an added attraction for local fans.

“I want to give to Texas boxers the same opportunities that were given to me,” said Ayala. With the support of his wife Leti and family members this should be a big success. Ayala always conducted himself well in the ring as a champion and the progression to promoting will fall into place. Tickets can be purchased at Paulie Ayala’s University of Hard Knocks Gym located at 3817 S.W. Blvd. and at LaGrave Field, home of the Fort Worth Cats Baseball Club.

I have promoted, been a matchmaker, manager and an advisor. What makes writing the best is that you get to talk to and if lucky enough get to meet some of your favorite boxers and fight people in the sport. I felt very fortunate in interviewing Paulie Ayala. He set a good example for young fighters today after turning pro in 1992 and waiting until 1998 before getting a world title bout even though he was 25-0. The following year he would stop one of the best winning streaks in the history of boxing at 48-0-2 by defeating Tapia not once, but twice. Then defeat the best that Europe had to offer in Bredahl, at 45-1. Go on to win back to back fights against Adams and show courage to step up in weight with the likes of Morales and Barrera. One could never question his heart plus with his God given ability and his good work ethics he became the world champion!

Ken at:

© Copyright / All Rights reserved: Doghouse Boxing 1998-2009