Laila Ali goes pro

On October 8, 1999, Laila Ali, daughter of the legend Mohammad Ali made her professional debut at the Turning Stone Casino on the Oneida Indian Nation in Verona, New York.

Ali won the fight against April Fowler of Michigan City, Indiana in 31 seconds. It was Fowler’s second professional fight and second time getting knocked out in the first round of the match. The match was not set up to demonstrate Ali’s skill level. Fowler was out of shape and had less experience than her opponent.

Normally a fight with two inexperienced boxers would not grab attention from anyone but the local press, but the Ali family name brought 3000 live viewers alongside media outlets from all over the world.

Ali’s career lasted eight years. She faced off against the best female boxers including Jacqui Frazier-Lyde, daughter of Joe Frazier. Ali-Frazier IV was a ‘generational grudge match’ featured a 23-year-old Ali and a 39-year-old Frazier. It took eight rounds for the judges to name Ali the winner. Surprisingly, only 300 press passes were given out for the match held in an arena able to hold 8000 viewers, or two thirds the amount of passes given to women’s NCAA Final Four games.

Ali is now married to retired National Football League player Curtis Conway. They have two children, their son Curtis Muhammad was born in 2010, and daughter Sydney was born in 2011.

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