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Considering the Life of Tony Ayala Jr.

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Boxing was the family business for the Ayala family. Tony Ayala, Sr., was the patriarch of the family. The ultimate payoff for the sacrifices made by the family was a “World Crown” as Ayala, Sr. once called it. I liken the fate of the Ayala boxing family to the House of Creon. There is more to life than any one man’s single enterprise. Can the imagination fathom what four boys could do if they were simply given the task of pursuing the Renaissance ideal?

Mike Ayala came perilously close to winning a world crown when he fought Danny “Little Red” Lopez. I say “perilously close” in the sense that the “House of Creon” would not be a tragedy without hubris; thus, had Mike Ayala emerged victorious how would the fate of the family have been impacted? Perhaps this is the wrong question. There is so much more to life than achieving a “world crown.” What would Mrs. Pauline Ayala not have given for a more diversified family portfolio?

These prefatory remarks serve as a way to write about the enigma that was Tony Ayala, Jr. I met with Tony Ayala soon after his release from his first prison term and just prior to his return to the ring in the summer of 1999. I was given an interview on the basis of me telling his handlers that Chicanos should write their own stories. I grew up in the Westside of San Antonio, as had Ayala; thus, I felt qualified to ask for an interview. I grew up with constant reminders of the destructive concept of machismo. I dedicated myself to study as a way to explore the life of the mind and to distance myself from the cultural yoke that is machismo. I had to fight also but it was in the intellectual arenas.

Tony and I spoke extensively and, when we concluded, I said that I would like to publish an article about our conversation. His response was, “as long as it’s honest.” Honesty is a much friendlier epistemic modality than truth. Truth is much too abstract to encompass the human condition. But, honesty is a better vehicle because, truth be told, Tony Ayala, Jr., was- if nothing else- an honest fighter.

The identity for most Hispanic men rests on their collective and subjective sense of machismo. My contention is that there is much to be said for the life of the mind. All men have it in their blood to know. All four Ayala brothers sacrificed their native ambitions because there was no other path open to them than to heed their calling as dictated by their father. Here, I could be wrong. My purpose in this article is to bury machismo, not to honor Tony Ayala, Jr. My key recollection on our conversation is in the form of what I thought was a poignant question: “why is it that Mike Tyson keeps making the same mistakes, why is his life riddled with self-destructive behaviors?”

Tony’s response was that, “Mike has not looked deeply enough into himself.” There was an embedded assumption that Tony had applied that introspection successfully. I was wrong about that deft assumption because it felt like an unrelenting, honest promise.

When I heard that Tony had repeated his shenanigans in 2000 that resulted in him getting shot, I was disappointed in myself. Why? Because I bought what he told me of Tyson, I could not suspect that he was not being honest with me.

In the fullness of time, I have accepted two things. How could I think that he tricked me if he could not be honest with himself? He could tell me what he thought about Tyson’s inability to escape his demons but I was unwilling to assume that he suffered from a special malady. He adroitly pretended to have faced his demons. He was simply unwilling to take a walk on the wildest of his sides. Perhaps he reasoned that when you can put a man on the proverbial seat of his pants then why should he have to do all that dangerous introspective work.

There was a time when Ayala was a feared man. He was once asked, after dismantling an opponent on national television, who do you want next? He said, “I’ll fight anybody… If my dad asked me to fight Godzilla then I’ll fight him.” Godzilla must’ve been trembling.

In John 8:7, Jesus utters the biblical admonition, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone …” I can understand why critics turned Tony Ayala, Jr. into a pariah in the sport of boxing (albeit he was effortlessly doing that to himself). That sense of righteousness, however, may be embedded in an act of re-criminalization; thus, such unbridled judgment is morally suspect. My Archimedean question to such critics is, “How would you like to be known by the worst thing that you ever did?”

My decision to write this testimony is aimed at offering his victim(s), his family, his mother, my memory of a moment in Tony’s life (and mine) when he opened up to me and provided me with an honest retrospective of his affairs. At the time he looked forward to redemption in the only way he knew how- to make a living and to give back. After all, he was a cautionary tale but a great deal more. Godzilla is trembling now.

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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