This writer remembers in 1999 when all the talk was about Johnnie Tapia, 46-0-2, and southpaw Paulie Ayala was the first to defeat him taking his WBA Bantamweight title. I felt “I hope Ring Magazine recognizes him” and they did making him Ring’s “Fighter of the Year”.
Not only did Ayala defeat Tapia but the following year he repeated defeating him again in making his third defense. In 2001 he lost his title for not getting “permission” to move up to super bantamweight and defeat the IBO World super bantamweight champion “Bones” Adams in back to back fights.
Later in 2002 Ayala went up one division too many losing to Erik Morales, 41-1, for the vacant WBC World Featherweight title. Only fighting once in 2003 didn’t prepare him to come back in 2004 and losing to Marco Antonio Barrera, 57-4, losing on stoppage for the only time in his career. He would never fight again.
In 1998 in his first world title attempt he lost to Joichiro Tatsuyahsi, 16-4-1, due to an accidental head fight losing on a technical decision in Japan losing for the first time in twenty-six fights. Two wins later he would take on and defeat Tapia.
At age 34, Ayala retired with a 35-3 (12) record three months after his loss to the surprise of many. Going home to Ft. Worth, TEX, to his family he took on a new challenge. Ayala wasn’t one to sit around so at his University of Hard Knocks Gym he contributed to helping those who suffer from Parkinson’s disease starting a new program. He would teach non-contact boxing techniques to regain co-ordination, strength and balance in order to improve quality of life for his students and create an environment of camaraderie for those who suffered from Parkinson’s. He runs ten classes a week for 60-100 members at any given time. One of his guest speakers was the daughter of Muhammad Ali who suffered from Parkinson’s, Maryum “May May” Ali. NBA player Brian Grant suffered from Parkinson’s while still playing and was a big part of a fund raiser for Ayala’s program. A silent auction included items from “Magic” Johnson and Roy Jones, Jr.
When actor Michael J. Fox and Pope John Paul were struck with Parkinson’s it brought world attention to the disease. Top trainer Freddie Roach also suffers from Parkinson’s but is still active in boxing.
Ayala and his wife Leti have three sons. Through his wife Leti I was able to get in touch with Ayala and discuss his boxing career and his now fight to help Parkinson’s patients. Ayala still trains, manages and promotes fights.