Actually, Tony is at his least confused when he's out with Lisa. He's just an 18-year-old with a car and a girl with good looks he wants to be near and show off. On a bright, recent Saturday afternoon he and Lisa are strolling on a walkway above the San Antonio River, which cuts, canal-like, through the center of the city. Tony leans over and makes a guttural spitting sound as a tourist boat passes underneath; most of the passengers look up in horror. "Just kidding," he says with a smile and a wave. "He's really just a big kid still," Lisa says, "no different than when I first met him. He really doesn't like all this publicity, but he knows he's got to go through with some of it." Suddenly, Ayala turns, rushes back and begins bobbing and weaving around Lisa as if they were in a 20-foot ring, irritating her enough that she finally has to protect herself.
Tony and Lisa stop at a restaurant for iced tea. "I'm sorry but you can't drink here without ordering fud," says the waiter, an Oriental. Tony, who in his comic moments sounds a lot like the dope comic Cheech, picks up on it. "Oh, man, we gotta get fud, huh? Well, let's go someplace where we don't need to get fud." Fud becomes the day's standing joke, though Lisa tires of it about the 100th time Tony uses it. It's hard to turn the conversation away from boxing and fud. Tony is told that Nolan Ryan pitched his fifth no-hitter that day. "Who's Nolan Ryan?" Tony asks. He is 18 and he has his car and his girl and who needs this Nolan Ryan? When last seen early that Saturday evening, Tony and Lisa were on their way to Military Drive, San Antonio's most popular cruising spot.
Torito is much more sedate around the Ayalas' southside home. The star on Sunday is Pauline Ayala, Tony's mother. She's up early, making tacos and the cheese-filled tortillas called quesadillas. They will be served with her homemade caldo, which is loaded with beef and vegetables. Her son's trophies and ribbons, along with her own collection of religious pictures, are everywhere, competing for work space in the kitchen.
The most crowded room in the house, however, belongs to 14-year-old Pablo, or Paulie, the youngest of the four brothers. A boxer himself with a 45-2 amateur record, Paulie lives in the back room with his own trophy collection and his pets—a cockateel, three parakeets, a tank of tropical fish and, usually, the family's four dogs. "This is my family," he says shyly. After his favorite parakeet, Goldie, the one he had taught to talk, died, Paulie was sad for days. Tony and Paulie are the only sons at home now. As much as his father wants to drive Tony to the championship, Pauline wants to drive Paulie to graduation day. He's in ninth grade now and Tony only went that far. Oldest brother Mike quit in his senior year; Sammy, the second-oldest, quit in the 11th grade.
"I kind of think of my boys like the fingers on a hand," Mrs. Ayala says. "They're attached to each other, but none of them is quite like the other. Michael was the sentimental one, very down-to-earth. Sammy was the slugger, independent, never paid attention. Tony kind of keeps to himself, though the publicity has drawn him out somewhat. Paulie's kind of quiet, too. He plays with his animals and he's very gentle. But, like the others, he's got a temper. He can fight.
"But I know one thing that will be different—Paulie is going to finish high school. With the others it was always this macho kind of thing about school: 'Who needs it?' But I'm going to see to it that Paulie finishes. He will be the first Ayala to make it through.
"Sometimes I wonder if other families have had all the ups and downs that we've had. Sometimes I think this boxing has made my boys grow up too fast. They found out about life, girls, everything too early. Look at Mike. He had the stars in his hands and he let go. Why?"
Mike Ayala, now 23, fought Danny (Little Red) Lopez for the WBC featherweight championship on June 17, 1979. Ayala took him to the 15th round before Lopez knocked him out. At the time, Ayala was a heroin user. A year and a half before, he had shot and wounded another San Antonio fighter, Gilbert Galvan, after a quarrel over the ownership of a TV set. Mike is fighting again (he's the top-ranked WBC super bantamweight), but he seems to be a long way from another title shot. Sammy, 22, sells cars by day and dreams of a comeback by night, but his father says Sammy's career (he was once the 16th-ranked WBC junior welterweight) is over. Sammy never liked training and is philosophical about it.
"Me and Mike liked to party too much," Sammy says. "And our other big problem was letting people guide us, people we shouldn't have been listening to. But Tony doesn't have that problem. He's smarter than we were. He's dedicated. Tony's going the right way."
Torito went the wrong way once. In December of 1978 Tony, then 15, assaulted a girl in a restroom of a San Antonio drive-in.-Ordered to stand trial as an adult, he pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated assault (reduced from attempted aggravated rape) and was sentenced to 10 years in prison on March 28 of last year. In June of 1980 the sentence was reduced to 10 years' probation after the girl appeared in court and testified she felt both she and Ayala had suffered enough.