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Showtime’s Espinoza says Ayala-Tapia replays “were fireworks”

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Showtime’s Espinoza says Ayala-Tapia replays “were fireworks”

Showtime Sports file photo

Showtime’s Espinoza says Ayala-Tapia replays “were fireworks”

Two fantastic title fights at the turn of the century in the Bantamweight division headline Showtime Premium cable’s “Boxing Classics” for Friday night April 17th. That’s when, the network will replay the intense battles between former Champion’s Paulie Ayala and Johnny Tapia.

Hear Showtime Sports President, Stephen Espinoza, rave about these two bouts, as part of their Friday “Boxing Classics Series,” on our most recent Big Fight Weekend podcast available here:

“Our goal was to take a little bit of a turn looking through the archives and maybe some unappreciated gems,” Espinoza told us.

“Obviously, it was appreciated at the time- we’re doing all ‘Fights of the Year’ and Tapia-Ayala I fits that. But, maybe, it’s not one of the ones that jumps to mind when you are talking classic fights…. you put the two of them together and there were just fireworks.”

Ayala took the WBA 118 lb. title in a thrilling win over the previously 46 – 0 – 2, champion Tapia in June of 1999 in Las Vegas in a fight that was the consensus 1999 “Fight or the Year.” The proceedings began with Tapia shoving Ayala before the pre-fight introductions and a near meele’ broke out, before order was restored.

Once the bell rang, the action-packed fight showed both fighters landing heavily in toe- to- toe action throughout the 12 rounds, as Ayala eventually one a narrow unanimous decision becoming World Champ for the first time.

Just over a year later in October of 2020, the two rematched, again in Las Vegas and once again, Ayala and Tapia put on a dramatic 12-round show of non- stopped action. And, it produced another narrow controversial decision given to Ayala.

After the verdict was read, Tapia and his entourage began pushing and punching others in the ring, as he had suffered another tough defeat. Tapia was physically removed from the ring by security and officials and ushered back to his dressing room.

Tapia battled drug problems throughout his career in the ring and even, after it. Unfortunately, Tapia eventually died from heart failure in 2012 due in part to years of heavy drug abuse. In an ultimate show of class and respect for Tapia in the ring, Paulie Ayala spoke at Tapia’s memorial service eight years ago.

Ayala he fought on until 2004 having vacated his Bantam title to fight at 122 lbs., and finishing with a career record of 35 – 3. He lost two of his final three fights to champions of the 2000s, Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera.

However, he’s probably best known for the two epic battles, and winning both, against Tapia.

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A veteran broadcaster of over 25 years, T.J. has been a fight fan longer than that! He’s the host of the “Big Fight Weekend” podcast and will go “toe to toe” with anyone who thinks that Marvin Hagler beat Sugar Ray Leonard or that Tyson, Lennox Lewis or Deontay Wilder could have beaten Ali!

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