PAUL ANTHONY “Paulie” AYALA
April 22, 1970 -
In June 1986 Fort Worth fighter Steve Cruz won the World Boxing Association Featherweight Championship and the city threw him a parade. During the same weekend Paulie Ayala won the Junior Olympic National Championships. Cruz asked Ayala to ride in his parade car, giving the young fighter a chance to share the experience. At that moment Ayala believed that one day he, too, would have a parade and also let amateur boxers ride along. And Ayala did!
Ayala started going to the gym by age four. Training at the Gorman Masonry Boxing Gym—the same facility where World Champion Steve Cruz, Troy Dorsey, Gene Hatcher, and Donald Curry all trained—the 1988 Lake Worth graduate worked his way through the Golden Gloves circuit, winning the state Golden Gloves title in 1989. Ayala competed in more than 300 amateur bouts, finishing his amateur career almost qualifying for the 1992 U.S. Olympic Team.
After a storied amateur career, Ayala turned pro, winning a unanimous November 1992 decision against Jaime Olvera in Dallas. In 1995 he knocked out Mike Espinoza in the third round to win the North American Boxing Federation Bantamweight title. He successfully defended the belt six times.
Ayala suffered his first career loss in 1998, when he challenged Champion Joiciro Tatsuyoshi for the World Boxing Council World Bantamweight Championship in Tokyo, Japan. On June 26, 1999, he fought six-time undefeated Champion Johnny Tapia for the World Boxing Association (WBA) World Championship, winning a 12-round unanimous decision. The bout with Tapia earned Ring Magazines’ “Fight of the Year.” Ayala also was named the “1999 Fighter of the Year,” which placed him among an elite group of famous fighters such as Rocky Marciano, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, and Sugar Ray Robinson.
Ayala defended the WBA World Title successfully two more times before moving up in weight to fight Johnny Tapia again for the International Boxing Association Featherweight World Championship. Ayala defeated Tapia in this rematch. After another move in weight divisions, Ayala defeated Clarence “Bones” Adams for the International Boxing Organization Junior Featherweight World Championship. On November 16, 2002, Ayala increased weight to fight Erik Morales for the vacant WBC Featherweight Title, losing a twelve round decision. He returned to the ring in June 2004, losing to former world champion Marco Antonio Barrera. With a record of 35-3, Ayala retired in September 2004, accomplishing what he set out to do—to leave a legacy in the sport he loved.
Stay focused, be patient, surround yourself with good people, never give up and always do your best.