Boxing contender and convicted rapist Ayala dead at 52 in Texas

By Jim Forsyth SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Former boxer Tony Ayala Jr., a middleweight title contender whose career was cut short by a rape conviction, was found dead on Tuesday at the age of 52 at a gym in San Antonio. Ayala's death was confirmed by Henry Rodriguez, a long-time friend and business associate. After his release from prison, Ayala was seen as a mentor to a generation of Texas boxers, Rodriguez said. "He was working with kids, teaching them a talent and passing it on to them," Rodriguez said. Ayala's cause of death was not yet known. Ayala was born to a prominent San Antonio boxing family with his father and two brothers being prize fighters. Known as "El Torito," Ayala faced off against some of the best middleweights of his era and was looking for a title shot. By the age of 19, he had a record of 22-0 with 19 knockouts. Shortly after that, he was arrested in 1983 for raping a woman at knife-point in New Jersey and sentenced to 35 years in prison. He was released in 1999 and mounted a brief comeback, compiling a 9-2 record, with eight knockouts, according to web site Box Rec. "He was one of the greatest," Rodriguez said. "If you ask anybody in the boxing world, his potential was amazing." (Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bill Trott)