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Wednesday, September 29, 1999 Published at 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK


Ali's daughter enters the ring

Laila Ali prepares for her big day at her gym in Los Angeles

Laila Ali, the daughter of legendary fighter Muhammad Ali, is to make her professional boxing debut in New York next month.

The BBC's John McIntyre: "Laila Ali inherited her fighting talents from the man they called the greatest"
The 21-year-old only took up the sport a year ago, but she is now ready to enter the ring at the Turning Stone Casino in upstate New York on October 8.

Ali - the youngest of the former heavyweight world champion's nine children - will take on April Fowler in a four-round bout.

"There is a lot of pressure on me and all expectations will be very high," she said.

"But my footwork is very good - like my father's - and I'm also very strong and very confident."

Roxanne Panthaki: "It's obvious Laila Ali is a daddy's girl"
However, her father may not be at ringside to see his offspring follow in his illustrious footsteps.


For Muhammad Ali, rated by many experts as the greatest sportsman of the 20th century, has been a staunch opponent of women's boxing.

[ image: At his peak, Ali was one of the world's most famous people]
At his peak, Ali was one of the world's most famous people
Laila admitted he had been sceptical about her decision to take up the gloves, but is now supportive.

The main reason for his indecision over the bout, though, is a fear that it will overshadow her own achievements.

"We haven't decided if he's going to be there," she said.

"My father being there would take a lot of attention away from the fight.

"Also, it's not easy for him to see me get into the ring.

"He doesn't want me to get hurt, but he's going to support me 100% as a father.

"But whether he's there or not, I'm coming to the ring to do wat I need to do and I'm serious about it."


Ali the elder, who now suffers from Parkinson's disease, had never encouraged his daughter to go into boxing and consistently painted the sport in its worst possible light.

[ image: Laila Ali has sparred with her father - but now comes the real thing]
Laila Ali has sparred with her father - but now comes the real thing
But Laila, who has been running her own nail salon in Los Angeles since she was 18, took up boxing as a form of exercise - and from there the obsession grew.

"If I want to do something, I just do it," she explained. "I really don't care what anybody has to say. I've always done everything that I wanted to do."

Laila was too young to see her father fight live - but she has inherited his penchant for rhyming

"There are so many expectations that I must meet, but there's only one promise I can make.

"On October 8 in Verona, New York, April Fowler will suffer a painful defeat."

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