Laila Amaria Ali (born December 30,
1977) is a retired undefeated American professional boxer. She is
the daughter of retired heavyweight boxing legend Muhammad Ali with
his third wife, Veronica Ali. Laila is the eighth of her father's
nine children and his youngest daughter.
was born December 30, 1977, in Miami Beach, Florida, the daughter
of boxer Muhammad Ali and his third wife, Veronica Ali. Ali was a
manicurist at age 16. She graduated from California's Santa Monica
College with a business degree. She owned her own nail salon before
she began boxing.
Ali began boxing when she
was 18 years old, after having first noticed women's boxing when watching
a Christy Martin fight. She first publicized her decision to become
a porfessional boxer in a Good Morning America interview with Diane
Sawyer. When she first told her father, Muhammad Ali, that she was
planning to box professionally, he was unhappy about her entering
such a dangerous profession. However Laila assured him she would be
fighting women, not men, and she had his genetics.
In her first
match, on October 8, 1999, the 5' 10", 166 lbs, 21 year old Ali boxed
April Fowler of Michigan City, Indiana. They fought at the Turning
Stone Resort & Casino on the Oneida Indian Nation in Verona, New
York. Although this was Ali's first match, many journalists and fans
attended, largely because she was Muhammad Ali's daughter. Attention
to Ali's ring debut was further boosted because it occurred on the
eve of what was supposed to be the first male-female professional
bout ever to be sanctioned by a US state boxing commission, later
ruled an exhibition. As WomenBoxing.com explains: "The near-alignment
of the two events focused more attention on female professional boxing
that there had been since Christy Martin's 1996 pay-per-view fight
with Deirdre Gogarty." Ali knocked out April Fowler - described by
WomenBoxing.com as an "out-of-shape novice" - in the first round.
also won her second match by a TKO with only 3 seconds left on the
clock. In that match her opponent was 5' 4" Shadina Pennybaker, from
Pittsburgh, who was making a pro debut after earning a 2-1 record
as an amateur. They fought at the Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and
Resort in Chester, West Virginia.
Ali captured eight wins in
a row and many boxing fans expressed a desire to see her square off
in a boxing ring with George Foreman's daughter, Freeda Foreman or
Joe Frazier's daughter, Jackie Frazier-Lyde. On the evening of June
8, 2001, Ali and Frazier finally met. The fight was nicknamed Ali/Frazier
IV in allusion to their fathers' famous fight trilogy. Ali won by
a majority judges' decision in eight rounds. This match by Ali and
Frazier was the first main event pay per view match between two women.
After a year's hiatus, on June 7, 2002 Ali beat Shirvelle Williams
in a six round decision.
She won the IBA title with a second
round knockout of Suzette Taylor on August 17, 2002 in Las Vegas.
November 8, she retained that title and unified the crown by adding
the WIBA and IWBF belts with an eight round TKO win over her division's
other world champion, Valerie Mahfood, in Las Vegas. Ali stopped a
bloodied Mahfood in eight rounds.
On August 23, 2003, ali fought
her original inspiration, Christy Martin, beating Martin by a knockout
in four rounds.
On July 17, 2004, Ali retained her world title,
knocking out Nikki Eplion in four rounds.
On July 30, 2004,
she stopped Monica Nunez in nine rounds, in her father's native city
of Louisville, Kentucky. This fight was part of the undercard for
the fight in which Mike Tyson was surprisingly knocked out by fringe
contender Danny Williams.