Leila 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 was pinned against April Fowler of Michigan City, Indiana in and won in 31 seconds. The one sided fight was Fowler’s second professional match and second time she was knocked out in the first round.

Normally, a fight between two inexperienced boxers would not grab attention from anyone aside from the local press, but the Ali family name brought 3000 live viewers and media outlets from all over the world. Fowler was set up to lose.

Ali’s career lasted eight years. She faced off with some of the best female boxers including Jacqui Frazier-Lyde, daughter of Joe Frazier. The fight known as Ali-Frazier IV was a ‘generational grudge match’ featured 23-year-old Ali and 39-year-old Frazier. It took eight rounds for the judges to name Ali the winner. Only 300 press passes were allotted in an arena with a capacity of 8000. That is 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. She received her second induction to the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame in July.

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