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  Ali - Nunez
WBAN Senior Editor
July 30, 2004

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – No Ann Wolfe for now. No Lucia Rijker, and definitely no Christy Martin.

If we are to take much at all from
Laila Ali's largely uninspiring win over a severely overmatched Monica Nunez, it might be that Ali indeed is starting to get a bit bored with the whole thing, not being Muhammad Ali’s daughter, but the boxing game.

Ali spent the week talking more about what lies ahead for her in life, not the sport, and fought like it Friday night. While fans were warmly enthusiastic in their support, many also felt unsatisfied and grumbled at the end result when Nunez’s corner, for no reason apparent to the 17,000 plus fans in Louisville’s Freedom Hall, waved the bout to a sudden halt. Many fans didn’t even know what had happened.

And while they might not have expected an exact reincarnation of the Louisville Lip, they were at least hoping for the Louisville Rip. She wasn’t close to becoming that, or the city’s second famous Louisville Slugger, either. Rarely did Ali let her punches go, and even rarer was her attempts to try and step back from Nunez’s clutch and grab survival strategy. Even at the stoppage, while Ali did have Nunez pinned briefly on the ropes near a neutral corner, the Dominican challenger appeared relatively unhurt.

So, instead of a showdown fight with any of the sports’ big names, the future holds a September 3 date in Atlanta against
Gwendolyn O'Neil, expected to be for a light heavyweight championship belt.

Wolfe still isn’t a made match – “business reasons” is the only tangible explanation offered by the Ali camp during her post-fight comments; Rijker is too far out of Ali’s weight division, and Martin simply isn’t on her radar screen at all, despite the fact the Coal Miner’s Daughter has recently been starting to loudly beat the rematch drum.

So, instead, Ali will adopt the quantity over quality route for now, having fought July 17 against the hapless
Nikki Eplion, a four-round stoppage in which Eplion was on the canvas no less then four times, meaning O’Neil would be her third fight in seven weeks.

The win over Nunez was solid, but certainly lackluster in many ways. The expected Ali “beat down” turned into more “hoe down,” with the combatants going round and round often in clinches. Ali did do some decent body work in the middle rounds which wore Nunez down, but as early as the second round, there were scattered catcalls from those who expected Ali to ratchet up the inspiration fighting in her father’s hometown.

“Well, I was happy that I won. I wasn’t happy that my opponent didn’t want to fight, but sometimes that happens,” Ali said. “I’m trying to stay busy right now. It’s back home and back to the gym. There’s not too many girls out there for me right now. It’s hard for me to stay motivated lately, so I just want to stay busy.”

The move to 175 won’t mean a better pool of potential opponents, either. Ali weighed some 20 pounds more than Martin, a discrepancy which only added to the sideshow impression some have of women’s boxing, and at the very least is a simple reality which should dictate that a rematch never happen.

“I walk around at 175. I can walk around at 190 sometimes when I’m not training. I carry a lot of weight, so 175 is a natural. I could fight 175 tomorrow. It’s no big deal,” Ali said about the move up. “When you fight at 175, you’re fighting girls that walk around at 185, 190, so you’re dealing with more power.”

Rijker, in fact, often fights at a lighter weight than Martin. She weighed in at just 134 ½ pounds in her May win over Sunshine Fettkether, and was at 138 for her win in 2003 over
Jane Couch.

“She actually has been talking about wanting to fight me ever since I fought Christy Martin, she feels like I took that fight away from her. So now she wants to fight me.” Ali offered about a Rijker bout. “Like I said before I fought Christy and after I fought Christy, I said I wasn’t interested in fighting smaller women. It doesn’t do much for me. The reason why I fought Christy Martin was because she was so popular, she was thought to be the best, and obviously there was money there. It’s not the case with Lucia. I’m talking about going up (in weight), I’m definitely not going down. I fought Christy six pounds lighter than my normal weight. I’m thin, I don’t have a whole lot of extra weight to take off. I’m not going to kill myself for anybody. If she wants to fight me, she can come up to my weight, I’d be happy to beat her ass.”

As for Martin’s most recent rantings, Ali is as unimpressed as she was with the popular Florida fighter on the night she knocked her out.
“When you annihilate someone like that, it (a rematch) doesn’t do anything for me, it doesn’t do anything for her. I don’t even think the public would want to see that after the first fight.” Ali said. “If nobody knew who Christy Martin was, nobody knew her name, they would have thought that was a woman I had picked up off the street and put in the ring and said, ‘now fight me.’ That’s the way she got beat up. For someone to have 50 fights, you would never believe me if I would have told you “no, no, she’s thought of to be the best.” You would have been like, ‘yeah, right.’ “

While many expect the Wolfe fight will indeed happen, Ali also would like a shot at Leatitia Robinson, who totally dominated Eplion in winning a 10-round decision earlier this year.

“A lot of people want to see that fight (Wolfe) and that fight needs to happen, because I know she’ll make me look spectacular, because she looks like a big, strong man. A lot of people would be scared to be in the ring with her, and that’s exciting to me. It’s exciting to get scared and think I could lose and get beat up by some muscle bound chick like that,” Ali said. “Leatitia Robinson I’d like to fight, she’s like the second best fighter in my weight class. She has good boxing skills, a lot of talent, and I think I would actually be able to put on my best performance with her. When someone is throwing just wild punches, it’s hard for me to do what I’m used to doing.”

But for now, fans will have to be content with the Labor Day weekend bout against another largely unknown and untested fighter. O’Neil’s best win came earlier this year in her home country of Guyana against Kathy Rivers.

“Gwendolyn is a fighter I’ve seen before. She comes straight forward, she’s strong, she has a lot of heart. And just like a lot of people thought Mike was going to kill this guy, you never know what to expect. It depends on how much they want it. All I can fight is who is there for me to fight.”



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