Tuesday, July 31
Ayala faces what could be his last bout

Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO -- Tony Ayala Jr. can't escape the reminder that time might be running out on his boxing career and his life as a free man.

It stays with him every step of the day, no matter where he goes -- an ankle monitor the 38-year-old middleweight will wear in the ring tonight.

Ayala, once one of boxing's most promising fighters, will take on Puerto Rico's Santos Cardona in a 10-round nontitle bout.

The electronic monitoring bracelet will help authorities track Ayala's every move.

That's because on Aug. 13, Ayala, a convicted rapist, goes on trial on charges of burglary with intent to commit sexual assault. If convicted again, he could get life in prison.

Ayala's lawyer on Monday asked that his client be allowed to remove the ankle monitor for the weigh-in and fight, but a judge denied the request.

"It's well known in the city that there have been some difficulties as of late and I feel very privileged to fight again," Ayala said. "I'm looking forward to the final stages, final chapters of my career, to be frank."

Ayala's career seemed limitless in the early 1980s when the furious "El Torito" ran up a 22-0 record by the time he was 19.

But he had already run into trouble with the law. At 15 he sexually assaulted a girl in a restroom and received 10 years' probation. A few years later, he moved to New Jersey after an arrest on charges he ransacked a neighbor's house after he was found drunk inside.

In New Jersey he tied up and raped a 30-year-old schoolteacher neighbor in 1983. He was convicted and sent to prison.

Ayala was released in 1999 and immediately resumed his career, racking up five straight wins before he lost to Yory Boy Campos by technical knockout last year.

He was recovering from that when Ayala drifted from a San Antonio strip club and into a woman's house last December. She had met Ayala while taking self-defense classes.

Nancy Gomez, who was sleeping on the couch, awoke to find a person standing across the room. She grabbed a gun and ordered him not to move. When he began coming forward, Gomez shot him in the left shoulder.

Ayala was arrested and released on $100,000 bond and placed on partial house arrest. The fight against Cardona (39-9, 26 knockouts) will be his first bout since.

"I'm very happy that my injury has healed and that first and foremost was the reason I've been out of boxing for the last year," said Ayala (27-1, 24 knockouts).

"I expect it to be a tough fight, both personally and professionally, but I've never known life to be any other way," he said. "It isn't extraordinary or different. I'm going to go out there and do my very best and hopefully the boxing fans can see everything I have to give."

Ayala's return from his prison stint was greeted joyously in San Antonio, where more than 10,000 people saw his first comeback fight. Tuesday night's bout will be outdoors at the 3,500 seat Sunset Station.

Ayala doesn't know what kind of reception he'll get this time.

"Obviously it is part of humans to be liked, to be accepted, to be loved, forgiven and all that good stuff and I'm no different," he said. "Will it change my demeanor .... if I'm not loved? No. My job in the ring is to hurt my opponent and win, end of story."

As for Cardona, he gave no indication of any concern about fighting a man who may be desperate for one last shot at glory.

"I'm a person who doesn't say much," said Cardona, who speaks little English and used an interpreter at a pre-fight news conference. "I know I'm in great shape and I'm going to come out to win."

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