If bloodlines means anything, Laila Ali not only is going to the top of her sport, she is going to put on quite a show getting there. Like her famous father, Ali has quick feet, a stiff jab and a preternatural self-confidence. Sharing her father's genes may bring extra skills, but they also will bring her extra scrutiny as fight fans ask if she can live up to the expectations generated by her famous name. It all started as a form of excercise for Laila Ali, who got into boxing in 1999. After watching a Christy Martin fight on television, she decided to give up her nail salon business and furthering her education in favour of a pro boxing career. "When people find out you are the daughter of Muhammad Ali, they try to take advantage of you," Ali said. "But, I never backed down from a fight." She says she is quite comfortable living and boxing in her father's shadow. "My dad is the most famous man in the world," she said. "He is the greatest boxer of all time, and I am his very proud daughter. People have asked me questions about my father all my life. That is something I am just used to."
In her pro debut in October 199, she knocked out April Fowler in 31 seconds. Following the knockout, Ali struck a pose reminiscent of her father as she stood over her stunned opponent with her fist cocked and a scowl on her face. In her second professional bout, she scored a fourth-round technical knockout over Shadina Pennybaker in November 1999. She bloodied Pennybaker's lip and forced a standing eight count in the fourth when she knocked her foe's mouthpiece out. A flurry of combinations sent Pennybaker reeling into a corner and produced a stoppage that created waves of protest from her corner. Evoking images of her father, Laila Ali taunted and talked to her opponent, and shook her head when Pennybaker landed a decent punch during the bout. A crowd of 2,200 watched Ali run her professional record to 3-0 with a second-round knockout over Nicolyn Armstrong in December 1999. She floored Armstrong late in the first round with a jab, followed by three hard rights. In the second and final round, she sent her opponent reeling to the canvas again, prompting an immediate stoppage by Referee Sam Williams. The unbeaten boxer improved to 4-0 with four knockouts in March 2000, after scoring an opening-round knockout over Crystal Arcand at Casino Windsor in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. After knocking Arcand down 15 seconds into the fight, she finished off her opponent with a straight right to the head at 1:10 of the first.
In what Laila Ali described at that point in her career as "by far, my toughest fight," Ali stopped Karen Bill in the third round in April 2000. Clearly the more stylish boxer, she landed a series of right hands in the first round. However, Bill connected with a solid right just prior to the bell that made Ali realize that she was in for a real fight for the first time in her brief career. That point became very clear early in the second round when a hard right knocked Ali down. "I was trying something I had been working on in the gym. I was not boxing," Laila Ali said. "I was standing there, and thinking about doing something. That is when I got dropped. I never pictured myself getting knocked down." The third round was a slugfest with both women punching furiously. Bill's nose was bloodied during one exchange before the referee stepped in and stopped the bout with 1:40 remaining in the round. Two weeks later in April 2000, she scored a fourth-round TKO over Kristina King.
After stopping Marjorie Jones in the first round in June 2000, Laila Ali registered a six-round unanimous decision over Kendra Lenhart on the undercard of Mike Tyson-Andrew Golota in October 2000. In her 2001 debut in March, shei and Jackie Frazier, daughter of former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, fought on the same fight card to commemorate the 30th anniversary of their fathers' first fight on March 8, 1971. Ali put on an impressive display by scoring a fifth-round TKO over Christine Robinson. Three months later in June 2001, the fight both women had been looking forward to for years finally came to fruition when Ali and Frazier faced off. Following eight rounds of furious action before a sold-out crowd of 8,000, Ali tallied an eight-round majority decision. After undergoing successful shoulder surgery in July 2001, Laila Ali decided to step away from the ring until she had completely recovered. One year after scoring her greatest triumph, Ali made an impressive return to boxing in June 2002, by registering a six-round unanimous decision over Shirvell Williams.
In her world title debut just two months later in August 2002, Laila Ali thrilled fans by stopping Suzette Taylor in the second round with a barrage of punches to capture the International Boxing Association (IBA) super middleweight crown. In November 2002, she put her IBA title on the line and made her broadcast television debut when she faced then International Women's Boxing Federation (IWBF) and Women's International Boxing Association (WIBA) super middleweight champion, Valerie Mahfood, on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights." Fighting with three titles on the line Ali pounded away at Mahfood until referee Joe Cortez stepped in to stop the carnage midway through the eighth round. The fight against Mahfood represented the third highest- rated "Friday Night Fights" telecast of 2002, and was the first to showcase women in the main event. In her initial 2003 appearance, Laila Ali put her three titles on the line when she headlined the inaugural "Louisville Slugfest" card in Louisville, KY., in February. Making her second consecutive "Friday Night Fights" appearance, Ali pounded former world champion Mary Ann Almager with a number of vicious body shots before the bout was stopped midway through the fourth round.
Employing fluid movement with fast and accurate combinations, Laila Ali had her best showing up to that point in her career in a rematch against Mahfood as part of the Vitali Klitschko-Lennox Lewis fight undercard in June 2003. Laila Ali took charge at the opening bell and punished the pressuring Mahfood throughout the contest. As Ali brutally unloaded a left hook to the ribs and a searing left hook and right-hand combination to the chin in the eighth, the referee rushed in and stopped the shellacking as Mahfood stumbled back into the ropes. In her next fight in August 2003, Laila Ali and Christy Martin met in the ring nearly five years after Ali watched her opponent fight on television and then deciding to follow in her father's footsteps. Billed as "Who's the greatest?," Ali captured the fictional title as she battered Martin in their IBA super middleweight title bout. Laila Ali easily won all four rounds and put Martin on the canvas twice, including the fight-stopper in the fourth round. Martin could not handle Ali's speed, power and sharp combinations.
Laila Ali defended her IBA crown against Sheree Eplion in July 2004. Ali dropped Eplion twice in the third round and two more times in the fourth before the referee stopped the punishment. Only two weeks later on July 30, 2004, she defended her IWBF crown against 20-year old Monica Nunez by TKO in the 9th, when Nunez' corner threw in the towel. In September 2004, Laila Ali won by KO in the 3rd round the vacant International Womens Boxing Federation Light Heavyweight Title against Gwendolyn O'Neil.
In her last bout in February 2005, Laila Ali defeated Cassandra Geigger by an 8th round TKO for the Womens International Boxing Association Super Middleweight Title.
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