With Legendary Father Ringside, Laila Ali Victorious In Garden Debut

By Francis Walker
Updated: November 13, 2006

NEW YORK — The legendary Muhammad Ali was at ringside to watch his daughter Laila Ali (23-0, 20 KOs) keep her undefeated record alive in her first professional fight at Madison Square Garden .

Ali earned an easy fourth round TKO of Shelley Burton (8-3-1, 2KOs). Coincidentally, Muhammad Ali’s Garden debut was a fourth round TKO of Sonny Banks (February 10, 1962). The Ali family are now a combined 8-1, 5 KOs at Madison Square Garden .

The only loss came on that historic night on March 8, 1971, some 35 years ago. An undefeated Ali waged war in a highly contested world heavyweight championship fight against an undefeated Joe Frazier for the first time.

Frazier knocked Ali down in the 15th round to win the heavyweight championship. Ali-Frazier I was named the 1971 Fight of the Year and hs been nominated as one of the 50th greatest moments in the history of Madison Square Garden.

Although HBO only televised Wladimir Klitschko’s IBF heavyweight title defense against Calvin Brock, the network did air a clip of Ali’s stoppage of Burton which was a history-making moment for the network.

“That was a ground-breaking moment for HBO,” Laila Ali said. “They don’t do that.”

Ali didn’t make much of fuss about her bout not being televised on HBO. However, members of press, fight fans, and supporters of women’s boxing argued that the sacrifices that Muhammad Ali made throughout his career and the impact he had on the sport should have been more than enough to grant Laila the opportunity to have her bout aired on HBO.

HBO has a policy of not televising women’s boxing matches.

“They think they’ll get rich when they fight me,” Laila added. “The money is just not there in women’s boxing. I make my money because of endorsements outside of women’s boxing. Women’s boxing has its own community.”

“I wouldn’t be here if my name wasn’t Ali.”