Laila Ali Expects Her Father at Fight

The Associated Press
Thursday, November 2, 2006; 12:26 AM

NEW YORK -- Laila Ali expects her famous father to watch her fight next week at Madison Square Garden, site of some of his most memorable bouts.

Ali will defend her WBC super middleweight title against No. 3-ranked Shelley Burton on the Nov. 11 undercard of the IBF heavyweight bout between champion Wladimir Klitschko and undefeated Calvin Brock.

She's counting on seeing Muhammad Ali in the crowd.

"He's planning on attending," she said Wednesday during a conference call. "It will be extra special for him to come watch me fight at the Garden."

Ali will make her Madison Square Garden debut 35 years after her father lost to Joe Frazier at the arena. The elder Ali dazzled crowds at the Garden during his career, losing the heavyweight crown in a 15-round epic in 1971, but winning the rematch three years later.

Laila is 22-0 with 19 knockouts since her pro debut in 1999. She said she spoke last week with her father, who at 64 is slowed by Parkinson's disease.

"He says he loves me and misses me," she said.

Muhammad Ali walked ringside and kissed his daughter at her last fight in Berlin, where Laila stopped Sweden's Asa Sandell in the fifth round Dec. 17.

The 28-year-old Ali has been training with Floyd Mayweather Sr. the last eight weeks in Las Vegas, focusing on defensive moves. She plans to put her new skills to work on Burton (8-2), who is from Kalispell, Mont., and trains out of Las Vegas.

"I've definitely grown in that area," Ali said. "Every time people fight me, they come 10 times harder because of who I am. (Burton) uses her jab, knows how to move around the ring and when to throw a punch.

"She's got heart. She really believes she can win. Of course, she's not because I don't lose," she said.

The Klitschko-Brock fight will be shown live on HBO, but the Ali-Burton fight will not be televised.

"Unfortunately, HBO doesn't show women's boxing, therefore they won't be showing my fight," Ali said. "That's a little upsetting. People will have to come to the Garden to see me fight."

HBO spokesman Ray Stallone said the network would cover the arrival of the elder Ali.

"We're not showing her fight as a regularly scheduled telecast," Stallone said. "But we'll cover the story as a news event. We see Laila Ali and the Ali name as a dramatic moment at Madison Square Garden."

© 2006 The Associated Press