It's almost a given that at any major U.S. amateur boxing competition, there's sure to be some kind of major flap involving the father of a boxer.
It happened again Saturday at the U.S. Olympic boxing trials, and this one topped anything in recent memory, according to USA Boxing officials.
Frank Ayala of Ft. Worth, Tex., refused to allow his son, Paul Ayala, to compete at the Olympic team boxoffs in Phoenix, June 26-28. Ayala was selected as a "most noteworthy opponent" after he lost to Sergio Reyes, 71-20, in Saturday's bantamweight championship match.
Had Ayala beaten Reyes twice in Phoenix, he would have made the Olympic team.
The wide score of the Reyes-Ayala bout was a surprise to nearly everyone. Most seemed to believe Reyes won a close bout. But Frank Ayala was furious.
"We were stunned," USA Boxing competition director Bruce Mathes said. "Frank was upset about the gap in the score, and he told us he wasn't going to send Paul to the boxoff. He said he felt we would 'just use him.' "
Woody Gregory, another USA Boxing official, spoke privately with Paul Ayala and said the following conversation occurred:
Gregory: "Paul, how old are you?"
Gregory: "You have a wife and baby, right?"
Gregory: "Paul, why don't you make this decision?"
Ayala: "No, I've got to talk to my Dad about it."
Mathes said the boxer's father was given one last chance to change his mind late Saturday night to permit his son to compete in Phoenix but still refused. Both father and son checked out of their Worcester hotel early Sunday and left for Ft. Worth.
"It's unbelievable, that a father would deny his son a chance to make an Olympic team," Gregory said. "And the real tragedy is, Paul is very competitive with Sergio Reyes. He's beaten him seven times over the years. He'll spend the rest of his life wondering if he'd have made the Olympic team."
Said Reyes, who grew up in Ft. Worth gyms with Ayala: "I'm not surprised. Paul's always let his father make all the decisions in his life."
Said another USA Boxing official, Fran Jones: "Frank said to me Saturday night: 'They know who they want on the Olympic team. They'll just try to use Paul (in Phoenix).' "