Once again, Elvin Ayala finds himself in the unenviable position of having to deal with a last-minute change of opponent, except this time he’s actually prepared for the unexpected.
Ayala (25-5-1, 11 KOs), the reigning WBC USNBC middleweight champion from New Haven, Conn., was originally scheduled to face hard-hitting Jesus Gonzales, but with Gonzales unable to acquire a license from the Mohegan Sun Department of Athletic Regulation, Ayala will now face sturdy veteran John Mackey (13-7-3, 6 KOs) in the 10-round main event of “The Fire Within” at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
This is nothing new for Ayala, who dealt with a last-minute swap in March when his originally-scheduled opponent, Hector Camacho Jr., suffered an arm injury the week before the fight. Ayala instead fought veteran Eric Mitchell on ESPN, winning by unanimous decision.
“Unfortunately, it is what it is,” Ayala said. “The only thing I did differently this time was tell my trainer [Marshall Kauffman] that this has been a problem before, so he said we’ll just prepare for both sides – left-handers and right-handers.
“The guy I’m fighting now is a lefty, so it works out. I got some sparring on both sides during camp, just to polish up on everything. It’s almost like the amateur days when you’d go to the weigh-in that day not knowing who you’re fighting yet.”
In addition to being a left-hander, which can be frustrating for more orthodox fighters such as Ayala, the 38-year-old Mackey typically saves his best for elite opponents.
Last year, he faced Providence’s Vladine Biosse in Lincoln, R.I., and earned a hard-fought draw. Last month, he battled undefeated middleweight prospect John Thompson and came within at least four points on all three scorecards despite losing a unanimous decision.
“I’m relaxed when I fight, but not to the point where I’m not putting forth an effort, because I’m trying to win every fight,” said Mackey, who works full-time as a police officer in his hometown of Montgomery, Ala. “I’m very competitive, not just in the ring but in life itself.
“I hate to lose, but I don’t let it kill me if it happens. That’s life; you move on.”
Mackey wasn’t expecting a phone call after the loss to Thompson, but because he had been in the gym consistently the following week, he was ready to accept the challenge against Ayala.
“Something told me to just get back in the gym,” he said. “I wasn’t frustrated with the loss. I think I pressed the action the whole fight. His foot movement was good. I give him a lot of credit. I was never hurt, but I hurt him two or three times.
“It doesn’t hurt me to lose, but a loss would’ve been detrimental to his record.”
The same goes for Ayala, who is now ranked No. 20 in the WBC among middleweights and needs every win he can get to continue climbing to the top of his weight class. The way Ayala sees it, he needs to win and look good doing so, not just to impress fans, critics, etc., but to achieve goals he sets for himself in camp.
“I’m really hoping for a knockout,” Ayala said. “I’ve been working hard on moves that allow me to work my body a certain way so that I can generate more power. I like to box and get out of the way, so I never really plant my feet and just punch.
“Those are some of the things I’m working on. I’m hoping to get one of those shots in, not for anyone in the crowd, but to prove something within myself, just to know that whatever I work on in camp I can ultimately accomplish.”
Working with Kaufmman in his hometown of Reading, Pa., has helped Ayala clear his mind and broaden his horizons. He’s working on new techniques and implementing new philosophies that he hopes will help bring him to the next level. He’s barely watched any film of Mackey during these past few days, instead relying on his own conditioning and experience to carry him.
“We didn’t lock down on any particularly technique or style during this camp because you never know what will happen,” Ayala said. “I worked the best that I could toward lefties and right-handers in general. I’m in great shape. My philosophy is to just wait for the fight and hope for the best. I’m in shape and ready for whatever.
“I’ve always said if you want to be a world champion you have to beat whoever they put in front of you, and this is no different.”
Mackey’s most impressive victories have come within the past two years, starting with a majority-decision win over previously-unbeaten Donald Orr in June of 2010, followed by a fourth-round knockout win over 11-5 George Rivera five months later. Beating Ayala in his own backyard would be the crown jewel on his resume, but “The Lycan” promises to be ready for whatever his opponent has to offer.
“He’s a heck of a competitor,” Mackey said. “He’s been in there with some big names. He’s used to the bright lights. I think his style will match well with mine. I’m still giving up some things, but I’m just blessed to be in a fight of this magnitude.”
Tickets for “The Fire Within” are on sale now at $40, $65 and $125 and can be purchased by calling CES at 401.724.2253/2254 or Ticketmaster at 1.800.745.3000. Fans can also purchase tickets online at www.cesboxing.com, www.ticketmaster.com, or at the Mohegan Sun Box Office.
Super middleweight Tylon Burris (2-0, 2 KOs) of Hartford, Conn., will face Felix Rodriguez (0-1) of Dracut, Mass., in a four-round bout, and Jair Ramos (2-0, 1 KO) of Waterbury, Conn., will take on veteran Antonio Chaves Fernandez (0-7) of Brockton, Mass. Female bantamweight Shelito Vincent (3-0) of Providence, R.I., will face newcomer Ivana Coleman of Slidell, La., in a four-round bout.
Welterweights Antonio Marrero of Hartford and Saul Almeida of Framingham, Mass., will make their professional debuts against one another in a four-round bout, and lightweight Christian Lao (4-1, 2 KOs) of New Haven will also return to the ring in a four-round bout against Boston’s Gabriel Duluc (5-0, 1 KO).
Heavyweight Donnie Palmer of Boston will make his professional debut against fellow newcomer Moses Marshall of Springfield, Mass., and Bridgeport, Conn., lightweight Carlos Hernandez (2-2, 1 KO) will face Alan Beeman (0-2) of Newport, R.I., in a four-round bout. Featherweight Joseph “Chip” Perez (8-1, 2 KOs) of East Hartford, Conn., will also be on the undercard in a separate six-round bout.