Laila "She Bee Stingin" Ali (5'10", 166
lbs) made her ring debut against April Fowler
of Michigan City, Indiana, on October 8, 1999 at the Turning Stone
Casino Convention Center on the Oneida
Indian Nation in Verona, New York.
Normally, a bout that pitted a
novice with no amateur experience (Ali) against
another (Fowler) who had been KO'd in the first round of her only
previous pro fight wouldn't rate mention beyond the local newspaper.
But the ring debut of 21-year
old Laila, the second-youngest of Muhammad Ali's
nine children, attracted major media attention and journalists from
world joined 3000 fans in upstate New York to cover it.
Muhammad Ali may be the most
recognized and best known sports figure on Earth
... instantly recognized on every continent and in every culture. His
transcends boxing ... and his ongoing struggle with faltering steps and
shaking hands raises troubling questions
about boxing's safety. If any of his children had become a boxer, their
would be a "human interest" story of a high order.
When one of his daughters chose to box, she became a new reason for
the media spotlight to focus on women's boxing.
Laila Ali's ring debut occurred just one day before what was supposed
to be the first
professional bout ever to be sanctioned by a
boxing commission ... later ruled, and better named, an exhibition. The
near-alignment of the two events focused more attention on
female professional boxing
than there had been since Christy Martin's 1996 pay-per-view
fight with Dierdre Gogarty.
The power of the Ali name,
which evokes memories of a remarkable fighter whose skills
and personality captivated millions of boxing fans,
is undeniable. And more than just these memories were evoked when
Ali himself went to Verona to watch his daughter fight. There was an
electric moment as the
announcer introduced "a man who needs no introduction ..." and "The
made his way to ringside as the crowd revived the famous chant ...
"Ali, Ali, Ali..."
This was no ordinary debut ...
A good fight could have added
to the buzz generated by the
return of the legendary Ali name. Unfortunately, lining up a totally
safe opponent for Laila's debut had produced ... in April Fowler ... an
out-of-shape novice who
was too easily and too rapidly flattened by the young Ali!
The bout lasted just 31 seconds and was too one-sided to establish any
boxing credentials for Laila. Still, she showed some media savvy ...
and a hint of things to come
... by striking a
pose reminiscent of her father as she stood over the fallen Fowler with
cocked and a scowl on her face. Sweet science it wasn't, but the media
Ali won her second
professional bout by TKO with 3 seconds left
on November 10, 1999 at the Mountaineer Race Track in Chester, West
This time she was properly tested by 5'4" Shadina
from Pittsburgh, who was making her own pro debut after going 2-1 as an
Ali bloodied Pennybaker's lip and forced a standing eight count in the
when she knocked Pennybaker's mouthpiece out.
A flurry of left-right combinations sent Pennybaker reeling into a
corner and produced a stoppage that was vigorously protested by
(Ringside report here.)
Although still far from
emulating her father's smooth style,
Ali again borrowed from his psychological playbook ... she taunted and
talked to her opponent, and shook her head
whenever Pennybaker landed well.
"I had to take my time and judge my distance,"
said Ali, sporting a bruise on her right cheekbone. "This was
second fight. I'm not going to be perfectly right where I need to be
all the time. That's why I took my time and why
it went four rounds. I'm never going to be upset if I don't
lose, I'm happy that it went four rounds because now I know
what it feels like. My first fight really wasn't much of a fight."
On December 10, 1999 at the
Cobo Center Riverfront Ballroom in Detroit, Michigan,
a crowd of over 2,200 saw Ali, who weighed in at 166 lbs, win by
TKO over Nicolyn Armstrong (179 lbs), who dropped to 1-4. Ali knocked
down late in the first round with a jab, followed by three hard rights.
second round, Ali battered Armstrong in a corner then knocked her flat
back. Referee Sam Williams stopped the bout immediately, awarding Ali
knockout. Ali is said to have earned $25,000 for this fight. Armstrong,
had won her pro debut but lost her previous
three fights by first-round KO, earned $2,500. She had to shed six
on the day of the fight to meet the 179-pound weight limit.
On March 7, 2000 at Casino
Windsor in Windsor, Ontario, Canada,
Laila (160 lbs) moved to 4-0 with 4 KO's by knocking out Crystal Arcand
(169 lbs) of St. Paul, Alberta, Canada at 1:10 in the first round.
a former Toughwoman competitor, was making her pro debut after going
amateur action. Arcand came out swinging wildly, Ali circled and landed
jab-uppercut combination that sent Arcand to the canvas after just 15
Arcand got up and Ali continued the attack,
putting Arcand on the canvas again with a straight right to the head.
Arcand got up to one knee but no further as she was counted out just
70 seconds into the bout.
her," Arcand said. "She's got the power and she can
it up. I've never experienced a woman with the amount of power she has.
an experience and lesson for me."
"She knows what she's
doing, all right," said referee Fern Chretien, a former
light-weight contender from Toronto, about Ali.
"You can see
some of her dad's moves."
On April 8, 2000 at the Joe
Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan, Laila (168 lbs) got the first big
in her boxing career, on the way to a controversial third-round
TKO of Karen
Bill (166 lbs) of Lawton, Oklahoma. Bill knocked Ali down
with an uppercut in the second round. Laila showed she had come to
by getting up and storming back, but she was still getting pummeled
in fierce action at round's end. The third round saw still more heated
action with both women going all out and landing cleanly until the
suddenly stopped the fight in Ali's favor. This drew boos from the
crowd, who had been cheering the all-out effort of both boxers.
Karen Bill had taken some punishment and was bleeding from the nose
but she was in better shape than Ali had been during the second round.
Many, including an angry Bill, felt that the stoppage was premature.
Kevin Morgan, Ali's first
boxing trainer in Los Angeles, had once questioned Laila's inner
toughness, noting that she had a tendency to turn her head away
from punches. "Runnin' around, like her father, ain't gonna
work in women's boxing.
People want to see women fight",
he said in an interview with the New York Daily News.
Laila Ali may have answered
the question of her toughness ... and begun to come of age as a boxer
... in the Karen Bill fight. Realizing
that her new career was on the line, she went right at it with the
Oklahoma fighter. Even though the questionable stoppage cast a shadow
over Ali's win, this fight showed she had the heart to
get up off the canvas and carry on against an aggressive, hard-punching
Laila Ali's next career move
took her to Tian He stadium in
Guangzhou (Canton), China on April 22, 2000, where
she appeared on the first major pro boxing card in China since the
founding of the People's Republic. Laila (165 lbs) capped several days
activity as a publicity magnet for the card by battering Kristina King
166 lbs) to a TKO 0:37 seconds into the fourth round. King, a
Toughwoman contestant from Muskegon, Michigan had won her only other
pro fight by a second-round TKO on Jan 28, 2000. However, she lacked
the skills to handle
Ali's combinations and movement and work her way inside.
King was in trouble all the way. She was rocked in the second, then
badly bloodied in the third ... a round in which a
booming right from Laila knocked her mouthpiece out. King was game to
fighting in the fourth, but Ali quickly had her in big trouble and this
stoppage, which moved Ali's pro record to 6-0, 6 KO's, was well
On June 15, 2000 at the
Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles, California, Laila (173 lbs)
moved her record to 7-0 (7 KO's) by knocking out a windmilling
Marjorie Jones (179 lbs) of Milwaukee, Wisconsin at 1:08 of the first
knocked Jones down three times, the last with a right to the head.
48-year-old who had been boxing professionally for two years and had
two KO wins,
fell to 2-5. A near-capacity crowd of over 3,800 ... again including
Ali's father ...
saw this "fight", which drew widespread criticism as a blatant mismatch.
Laila next took a "time out"
to get married, then returned to the ring for her first fight against a
genuine title contender.
On October 20, 2000 at the
Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan,
Ali (165¼ lbs) advanced to 8-0 (7 KO's) with a unanimous
(58-56,58-56,60-54) six-round decision over another KO specialist, Kendra Lenhart.
(6'1", 165½ lbs) of Lenoir City, Tennessee, who fell to 6-8-1 (6 KO's).
Ali's first fight to go the distance. Lenhart, a former IFBA
challenger, rocked Ali and bruised her face with several swinging shots
to the head.
Lenhart hammered Ali with a hard right with 20
seconds left in the second round and hurt her with a left-right
combination in the third. Ali rallied to take the final three rounds
more decisive and disciplined punches as Lenhart tired.
Both fighters looked nearly exhausted by the end of the bout.
"I am a little disappointed that I couldn't knock
her out and that I got hit
too much," said Ali after the fight, adding "I have
a fighting spirit, but I
know I should have boxed more." The
bout provided more excitement
than the men's Main Event, which was cut short after two rounds when
Andrew Golota quit against
Ali's credibility as a boxer
got a further boost when Kendra Lenhart went on
to knock out highly-favored several-time world champion Valerie Mahfood
in Beaumont, Texas
on April 19, 2001, taking the vacant WIBF Super-Middleweight title.
On March 2, 2001 at the
Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York,
Ali moved her pro record to 9-0 (8 KO's) when she knocked out Christine
Lexington, South Carolina with a barrage of rights
and a left uppercut at 1:50 in the fifth round.
Robinson absorbed Ali's right repeatedly in the early rounds but hung
and landed a few hard rights of her own in the third. Ali became more
aggressive and started leading with a left jab, keeping her right
for an opening. Robinson matched Ali punch for punch in the fourth,
but Ali got the upper upper hand when she backed Robinson into a corner
fifth. Ali threw a barrage of rights then put Robinson down for the
with a powerful left. Robinson fell to 2-5 (1 KO) with the loss.
The stage was set for a
much-hyped Ali vs. Frazier IV generational "grudge
that pitted Laila Ali against Joe Frazier's daughter Jacqui Frazier-Lyde
at the Turning Stone Casino on June 8, 2001. This bout again attracted
major media coverage,
including being featured as the cover story in the week's TV
Guide (a first for women's
Frazier-Lyde, a Philadelphia
lawyer, had taken up boxing specifically to fight Laila Ali.
"It would be a great draw," she had said
when she first proposed the bout.
"It would establish Laila financially, and then I
would establish her horizontally."
Before facing Laila Ali,
Jacqui Frazier-Lyde had fought only safe opponents and had shown little
sign of the
ring skills needed to make Ali vs. Frazier IV more
palest shadow of their fathers' famous encounters. The boxing press
talked of the
daughters sullying their fathers' reputations. Some predicted a
"Groaner in Verona".
Many in the men's boxing world, often far from friendly to female
seemed ready to trash women's boxing yet again if the event was a flop.
In a complete reversal of
roles from the earlier generation,
Ali was the quiet one during pre-fight press events, while Frazier-Lyde
talked a blue
streak, hurling taunts and jibes at Ali while "selling" the fight as
a grudge match. As the media spotlight on
the two daughters broadened well beyond the usual scope of sports
coverage, I just held my
breath and hoped they would put on a good show. (Nobody could
reasonably have expected
two boxers with single-digit fight experience to come close to matching
the wars that their fathers
In fact, Ali vs.
Frazier IV, while far from the best boxing that female
fighters produced in 2001, turned out to be an entertaining toe-to-toe
Frazier-Lyde (164 lbs) rose to
the occasion and took
Ali (160¾ lbs) to a hard-fought eight-round majority decision.
The scorecards were 77-75 and (an, in my view, absurd) 79-73 for Ali,
while one card
had it a draw at 76-76. Frazier-Lyde started aggressively but Ali won
the middle rounds.
Frazier-Lyde looked like she might be in trouble but she charged back
in the late going and staggered Ali several times in a rousing finish.
two biggest names among the blooming crop of "famous
had confounded some of the skeptics by putting on a show that might
many to take a closer look at other women's boxing! As she had done
against Kendra Lenhart in her first six-rounder, Ali faded in the late
going, and showed signs that
she needed to work on her endurance if she had her sights set on
the best of her weight division, who now eagerly awaited her. [Fight report
by Dee Williams;
Fight report by Brian Ackley]
Muhammad Ali didn't attend his
daughter's most-publicized fight to date, because of a prior
commitment to a NASCAR event.
After this event, Laila Ali took another timeout from competition, this
time for surgery to her shoulder,
while also teaching boxing aerobics classes ("The Ali Way") three times
Ali returned to the ring on
June 7, 2002 at the DeSoto Civic Center in Southaven, Mississippi.
Weighing in at 164 lbs, she cruised to a six-round unanimous decision
over Shirvelle Williams (159 lbs) of St.Petersburg, Florida. Williams
left-right combinations and jabs throughout the bout after Ali took
the opening round with several hard rights. Williams tired in the
middle of the
fight but rallied in the fifth and sixth, only to eat more left-right
combinations and body shots. Williams landed a hard right in the sixth
responded quickly with a booming left to the head. Williams ended the
a battered left eye and fell to 4-3-0 (2 KO).
On August 17, 2002 at Aladdin
Hotel and Casino, in Las Vegas, Nevada,
Laila (165½ lbs) won her first world title before a capacity crowd and
a national PPV audience.
Ali TKO'd Suzette Taylor
(166 lbs) of Las Vegas
at 1:11 in the second round to take the IBA Super Middleweight belt.
Referee Kenny Bayless halted the
scheduled 10-rounder after titleholder Taylor absorbed a barrage of
unanswered punches. Ali showed good hand speed and her body punching
in trouble in the opening round. Ali frequently beat
Taylor to the punch and showed a combination of speed and power
that spoke volumes about her progress as a boxer.
(Taylor's previous fight had been a loss to Ali's arch-rival Jacqui
for the WIBA light heavyweight belt in December 2001.) Taylor fell to
10-7-1 (7 KOs). [Video]
WBAN named Laila Ali its
Fighter of the Month in September 2002.
November 8, 2002 at the Stratosphere Events Center in Las Vegas,
Nevada, Laila (167 lbs) won by a TKO at 1:14 in the
eighth round over IWBF and WIBA Super Middleweight champion Valerie Mahfood (161 lbs) of
Texas in a triple title-unification bout. Ali dominated the Texan, with
had testy exchanges before the fight. Both took some time to warm up in
the first round but after this it was all Ali as she began to land hard
hooks to Mahfood's chin and bloodied Mahfood's nose with a straight
right. Ali began to work Mahfood's body in the fourth
and Laila's digging left hooks paid dividends by the sixth round as
Mahfood's gloves began to come down. Ali began to
unload on the flagging Mahfood in the seventh and started the eighth
with a pounding right to the head that bloodied
Mahfood some more. Ali later backed Mahfood to the ropes where she
uncorked a fierce left-right-left combination that
brought referee Joe Cortez in to save Mahfood from further punishment.
Ali said she was unhappy at the stoppage as she
wanted to continue to pay Mahfood back for her prefight comments. Ali
took home the WIBA and the IWBF
belts as well as her IBA belt from this bout, which was carried live on
ESPN2. Mahfood fell to 13-5-0 (7 KO).
(There are more fight photos and a behind-the-scenes report by Sue TL
Fox on the WBAN Records
Under new trainer Roger
Mayweather, Ali has developed boxing skills to match the expectations
that her name
conjures up for the boxing community. WBAN named her its Fighter of the
On February 14, 2003 at
Louisville Gardens in Louisville, Kentucky, fighting in her dad's
original home town, Laila (167
lbs) TKO'd former world champion Mary
(5'8", at 168 lbs the heaviest of her ring
career) of Midland, Texas at 1:55 in the fourth round. Ali took the
action to Almager in the opening round while still looking wary of
Almager's southpaw stance and ring experience. Almager looked
overmatched by by Ali's quickness and reach in the second, and was
swinging her punches, looking to tag Ali with one
haymaker. Almager kept swinging in the third while Ali threw precise
combinations and kept her distance well. Almager
faded as Ali picked her apart with body shots in the fourth and the
fight was stopped with Mary Ann clearly out of gas
against the ropes and hurting from a hard right to the midsection. The
Almager, who came out of retirement to take the fight, fell to 14-6-0
(9 KO) with the loss.
On June 21, 2003 at Staples
Center in Los Angeles, California, USA, Laila again stopped Valerie Mahfood (168 lbs),
this time at 1:17 in the sixth round. Neither showed any reluctance to
mix it up on the inside in this
second matchup, but Ali found a home for a counter right hand that
could shake Mahfood. Mahfood landed some solid leather
in exchanges in the third and fifth rounds and opened a small cut near
Ali's eye in the fifth. In the sixth, Ali shook up
Mahfood with a right hand with Mahfood on the ropes, then continued to
smash Mahfood's head back with hard rights,
prompting referee David Mendoza to stop the bout. Ali didn't look quite
as sharp in this fight as she had in their first
match last November, but she still had enough to overwhelm Mahfood. "I
hit her good with a right hand. That is when I
decided to take her out then," said Ali, adding "I
didn't underestimate her and she didn't underestimate me. I fought
the way men fight, which is an exciting style like HBO wants. It takes
a star to make Women's boxing grow. I just hope
that networks like HBO take notice." Mahfood fell
to 13-6-0 (7 KO).
On August 23, 2003 at
Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center, Biloxi, Mississippi,
Laila (162 lbs) knocked out
(who had normally fought as a welterweight or junior welterweight but
weighed in at 159 lbs wearing bulky
combat fatigues) at 0:48 in
the fourth round of a PPV Main Event.
The scheduled ten-rounder was for Ali's IBA Super Middleweight title
... but also on the line was status as the icon of women's boxing.
Christy Martin (5'4") had personified the sport in the 1990's but was
at a severe height and reach disadvantage against Ali. Martin charged
out to start the fight and both landed heavily at first but Ali
staggered Martin against the ropes near the end of the round,
which left Martin already red and swollen under her left eye. Ali again
rocked Martin early in the second. Martin came back to land some shots
near the end of the second round, but Ali knocked her down in the third
with a string of quick hard uppercuts. Martin was dropped by a
rapid-fire barrage of leather in the fourth and her husband/trainer Jim
exhorted her to "stay down" at not try to beat the count.
Martin was unable to counter
advantage and get to within range to land combinations that might have
slowed Ali down. "She was just too big," said
Martin after the fight, adding, "she was in great shape and
she kept on coming.
She still fights like an amateur, but all around she was just too big."
Ali conceded "Christy is tough, but I'm definitely stronger
than her. She cracked me, but she didn't hurt me."
Martin fell to 45-3-2 (31 KO) with her first loss by knockout.
The weight discrepancy in the
Ali-Martin fight may have been much larger than
advertised. I've been told that
Martin may only have been 147 lbs on fight night. I feel strongly that
fighters should not be allowed
to weigh in wearing bulky clothing like the combat fatigues that Martin
showed up in.
This fight might not have taken place if the Mississippi commission had
Ali's next scheduled
appearance was to have been a six-rounder with unbeaten Gwendolyne
O'Neil of Guyana on January 10, 2004 in Abuja Stadium, Lagos, Nigeria,
in aid of a
charity combating AIDS and human trafficking. O'Neil had already been
in Nigeria for five
days when Ali canceled her flight to Nigeria, citing flight connections
that would not
allow her adequate time to prepare for the bout.
On July 17, 2004 at Prince
Georges Stadium in Bowie, Maryland, and televised live on Pay-Per-View,
Laila (167¼ lbs) successfully defended her IBA World
Super Middleweight title by TKO'ing former Toughwoman champion
Nikki Eplion (167¾ lbs) of South Point, Ohio at 1:30 in the
Ali’s boxing skills and aggressive style were too much for Eplion, who
was game but could not compete with Ali's mobility and power, despite
stating in the pre-fight
press conference that "I don't think she [Ali] will have an
[my] big left hand." Eplion began the fight aggressively,
trying to land with that left, but her plan apparently went out the
window when Ali walked past her punches and began landing
lead rights. Eplion
began going backwards and was backed against the ropes and into corners
as Ali picked up her pace and ramped up the pressure on her with the
crowd chanting, “Ali, Ali”. Eplion was knocked down four
times in the third and fourth rounds and Ali was scoring hard right
hands and short left uppercuts before referee Gary Camponeshi stopped
the bout. Eplion fell to 13-2-2 (8 KO).
Ali vs. Nunez in July 2004
Copyrighted photo by Brian Ackley
On July 30, 2004 before 17,000
fans at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky, Laila (168 lbs)
successfully defended her IWBF Super Middleweight
belt by stopping Mónica Núñez
(164 lbs) of the Dominican Republic
at 0:42 seconds in the
ninth round. Ali had Núñez on the ropes when the challenger's
corner threw in the towel. See the
by Brian Ackley, WBAN's Senior Editor, who writes that "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 ... waved the bout to a sudden halt. Many fans didn’t
even know what had happened. 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." Ackley adds
'"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." (For more photos of this fight, see Photo Gallery #191 at
the WBAN Records
“Well, I was happy
that I won", said Ali. "I wasn’t happy that my
opponent didn’t want to fight, but sometimes that happens. 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.”
Núñez fell to 9-2 (4 KO).
On September 24th, 2004 at the Phillips Arena in
Atlanta, Georgia, Laila (174¼ lbs) won the IWBF Light Heavyweight title
with a third-round knockout of
(175 lbs) of Guyana. Ali began this fight letting O'Neil come to her
while she blocked most of her punches with her gloves, a strategy
reminiscent of her father's "rope-a-dope" tactic against George
Foreman. As O'Neil appeared to tire after just a minute of
this, Ali began to respond with quick jabs and hard hooks to her body.
She responded to a lazy jab by O'Neil midway through the second round
by knocking her down with a counter right to the chin. O'Neil recovered
quickly but the same scenario played out later in the round, putting
O'Neil down for an eight count that left her still wobbly. Ali turned
up the heat in the third as O'Neil looked increasingly
desperate. Ali dropped O'Neil in a neutral corner with
another right to the jaw as the third round was ending. This time
O'Neil sat stunned as she was counted out by referee Jim Korb. “She
was tough,” said Ali, “I had to hit her with
straight rights to knock her down.” Ali improved
to 19-0 (16 KOs) with the win while O'Neil fell to 9-4-1 (6 KOs).
On February 11th, 2005 at the
Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, 8213 ringside fans and a live ESPN2
audience saw Laila (168 lbs) defend her WIBA Super Middleweight title
by TKO'ing Cassandra Geiggar (170 lbs) of Arkansas at 1:13 in the
eighth round of a scheduled ten-rounder. Ali worked the body
against the bigger but over-matched Geiggar, who didn't throw many
punches but instead seemed intent on smothering Ali's at close
quarters. Ali began slowly and didn't need to show much
movement to control the action easily. Ali stepped up her
work rate in the third (and took advantage of Geiggar's apparent
confusion over the ten second warning to go after the Arkansas fighter,
who thought the round was over and was on her way back to her corner).
Geiggar showed her toughness in the later rounds by standing up to a
steady barrage of punishment, including a bad swelling over her left
eye. Ali came out aggressively in the eighth and eventually
dropped Geiggar to one knee beside the ropes. Geiggar had now
lost her appetite for continuing the lop-sided affair, which was ended
by the referee.
Geiggar fell to 6-5 (6 KO's). After the fight, Ali said that
her next opponent could be WIBA Middleweight champion Leatitia Robinson of
Chicago, who KO'd Monica Núñez in the first round of on the undercard
of the Ali-Geiggar mismatch. She also hinted that she is thinking about
starting a family.
On June 11, 2005 at the MCI
Center, Washington, District Of Columbia, with her father among the
15,472 ringside fans, Laila (167½ lbs) TKO'd
(168 lbs) of Huntington Beach, California at 1:54 in the third round to
win the newly-minted WBC Women's Super Middleweight title. In
the first round Ali and Toughill, a world-class MMA fighter with
limited boxing experience, both began cautiously. In the second round,
Toughill sported a bloody (and broken) nose and the crowd began
“Ali, Ali, Ali.” Ali had the
faster hands, and Toughill was unable to mount a consistent attack, so
Ali took charge. Though Ali used a jab occasionally to set up other
punches, most of her damage was done with a stiff right hand that
Toughill seemed unable to avoid. By the end of the second round,
Toughill's nose was bleeding profusely, and her corner was unable to
stop it. Toughill started the third round more effectively but by the
end of the round, Ali backed her into a corner throwing a barrage of
combinations, landing about 15 unanswered punches to Toughill's face.
The bout was stopped when Toughill turned her back to her. Muhammad Ali
said of his daughter's performance ...
“she’s bad”. The bout was also a defence of Ali's WIBA Super
Middleweight and was carried live on Showtime pay-per-view. Ali improved her record to 21-0-0 (18 KOs)
while Toughill fell to 6-2-1 (0 KOs).
After the bout, Ali’s then husband and
manager Yahya McClain said that
“We’re looking at some bouts overseas. We’re
looking at South Africa,
maybe China, maybe Germany. Right now, we’re not looking at what’s here
in America because it’s just too much headache to make these fights
Ann Wolfe, Vonda Ward or
Robinson. They keep backing out. It doesn’t make sense for me
to keep trying to make these matches because they keep falling out.
Maybe Vonda Ward because of the historical significance,”
McClain continued. “Laila would fight for the heavyweight
championship of the world like her father did. But those are the only
things on the table at this moment.”
“The two girls I want to fight are Leatitia Robinson and
said Ali. "Ann Wolfe because she is a strong girl, she has a
good record, she’s been talking a lot of noise, the public wants to see
me fight her, she looks scary and we want to make that fight happen.
Same with Leatitia Robinson, we put Robinson on two of my undercards
but when it was time to make the fight happen, she started talking
crazy. Then you have to make them starve a little bit and make them
recognize again until they understand.”
Ali is the winner by TKO over Sandell in Berlin
December 17, 2005 at Max Schmeling Halle in Berlin, Germany,
a sell-out crowd of over 10,000 saw Laila (169½ lbs) defeat Asa Sandell
(6'2",166½ lbs) of Sweden by a TKO at 1:51 seconds of the
fifth round. This was Ali's first fight without McClain as her manager.
After more than holding her own by using a left hook against an
unusually sluggish-looking Ali in the early going, a tiring Sandell
looked stunned after taking a hard right 90 seconds into the fifth
round. Ali took advantage of the opportunity and threw a barrage of
combinations, backing Sandell up against the ropes and peppering her
with more quick combos. Sandell looked winded and failed to
defend herself, so the referee stopped the fight. (WBAN
by Round report by Peter Geudens).
the fight Ali said “I expected the fight to be a little
tougher than usual because she was a tall opponent and she was a tough
fighter. And I felt like they stopped the fight too soon. I was a
little disappointed at the stoppage because I didn’t think that she was
ready to go yet. I wanted to put her out. She was on her way there. I
had a game plan, I was working my way to her, and I started to get
closer and closer, and I finally turned up the heat and they stopped
the fight. It’s happened to me before. You know what I mean? These
referees for women, for some reason, they don’t want to see ‘em get
hurt. But, I have to give her her props; she did very well."
(For photos of this fight's weigh-in, see Photo Gallery #315 at
the WBAN Records
Shelley Burton vs. Laila Ali in Madison Square Garden
© Copyrighted photo taken by Lori Steinhorst
11, 2006 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Laila (166½ lbs)
TKO'd Shelley Burton (164
lbs) of Kalispell, Montana at 1:58 in the fourth round defending her
WIBF and WBC Super Middleweight belts. According to the Reuters report,
Ali fought conservatively at first, but soon it was clear she could
land her big right at will, stunning her challenger several times. As
the fourth round was drawing to an end, the 28-year-old Ali landed a
left-right combination flush to the nose of Burton, who stooped over as
blood poured out and referee Arthur Mercante Jr. called the fight off
with two seconds left in the round." Ali
improved her record to 23-0 (20 KO's) wile Burton dropped to 8-3-1 (2
KO's). The bout was not carried by HBO, despite being the
co-Main Event on a card on which men's fights were carried by HBO, but
was right" by Bernie McCoy for a contrary view.
On February 3, 2007 at the
Emperor's Palace Casino in Johannesburg, South Africa Laila Ali (168
of Georgetown, Guyana just 0:56 seconds into the first round of a
scheduled ten-rounder for the WBC and WIBA Super Middleweight
titles. Ali was quoted in an AP article that she “apologized”
to boxing fans including former South African President Nelson Mandela,
for the brevity of the fight. The fight's publicity was out of
proportion to its competitiveness, as Ali had already easily dispatched
O'Neil in 2004 on the last occasion that O'Neil fought outside Guyana
where her opposition is limited (her last three opponents had a
combined 5-19-2 record). Ali improved her record to 24-0
(21 KO's) and intimated that she would not be boxing again for a
while. O'Neil fell to 12-5-1 (7 KO's).
a large number of
from readers after the second O'Neil fight regarding Ali's boxing
career, its effect on women's boxing, and the possibility that this
mismatch might be Ali's last fight.
she was looking for a rematch with Jacqui
Frazier-Lyde to do what she couldn't in their first fight ...
Jacqui out! Asked about this rematch by WBAN's Sue TL Fox, Ali replied:
"I always thought that after she (Frazier) fought
me, that she would quit.
The thing is...I still feel the same way about Jacqui as I always
bottom line is the business side of it. Jacqui
obviously wants to fight me, and
if we can make it happen, and we can make it happen big ... then we can
happen. She's in my weight class, and she is a world champion now. And
not that many in my weight class that are challenging anyway. And
I was not
that happy with my performance in that fight, so that has been on my
definitely will fight her again."
In fact, the O'Neil
fight proved to be Ali's last as a pro boxer. She went
on to compete on Dancing With the Stars, coming
in third behind Apolo Anton Ohno and Joey Fatone in 2008. In 2009, she
joined Hulk Hogan in the re-make of American Gladiators,
and became a regular on the talk-show circuit.
Ali had matured into a strong
and capable boxer whose ring career would merit serious attention
even without her family name. But the media buzz, endorsements
and fame she achieved came from the extra ingredient
her background brought to the world of women's boxing..
Ali did not grow up to close
to her famous father. She is the younger of two daughters with his
third wife, Veronica,
and she lived with her mother in California after her parents divorced
when she was eight. She grew up in Malibu and
graduated from Santa Monica Community College. Her defiant attitude to
the world got her into some street fights,
according to promoter Mike Acri. At age 16, she was busted for
shoplifting and later did a three month stint
in a juvenile detention hall for "something else". Before turning to
professional boxing, she ran a beauty salon.
Ali is reluctant to compare
herself to her father: "We're two different people, but I
know that because I am his
daughter that I naturally have boxing skills that most people probably
don't have when they start" she told reporters
before her Verona debut. "My dad never had this much
attention on him when he was first fighting,"
Ali's decision to box despite
her father's struggle with the symptoms of Parkinson's disease has of
course sparked a
mixture of debate and criticism.
Ali states that her father
painted the worst possible picture of boxing for her and
"he doesn't want me to get hurt"
but supports her 100 percent. "He always wants to make sure
that I know what I'm doing is not easy and you're going to get
hit and bruised and the wind is going to get knocked out ... he always
takes your mind to the worst possible scenario to
see if you're going to still want to go forward with it", she
says. "I'm going to get hit, I'm going to get my face
swollen, it's going to happen," she said.
Laila's credentials as a
magnet for worldwide media attention (and for ongoing questions about
whether women's boxing is sport or spectacle) were clear. As
she continued to fight more experienced boxers, she
built interest in women's boxing as well as her
own career. Ironically, her biggest publicity boost came from a fight
that she herself seemed to disdain ... the
challenge from Jacqui Frazier-Lyde, who did a great job of promoting
their generational battle and then put on a tenacious
scrap once they were in the ring.
Ali with the WIBA and IFBA belts
Copyrighted photo by Sue TL Fox
Throughout her ring
career Laila Ali walked in the largest possible footprints ... with the
world watching to see if
she measured up! Her genes may have bestowed some extra skills, but
they also brought her extra scrutiny as fight fans asked
if she could live up to the expectations generated by her famous name.
Women's boxing as a whole
was better off because of the extra attention
she garnered for the sport.
More Laila Ali Links
To check out fight reports,
complete up-to-date boxing records, with huge digital photos you can go
the WBAN Records
Friday, 09 August 2013