With her father watching from ringside, 21-year-old Laila Ali made her pro boxing debut by knocking out April Fowler at 31 seconds of the first round last night in Verona, N.Y.
It was no fight at all. Fowler, a waitress from Michigan City, Ind., was inept in the ring, often turning her head as she punched. Ali speared her with several jabs and then knocked her out with a left-right to the jaw.
When Fowler hit the floor, Ali stood over her with her fist cocked, reminiscent of how Muhammad Ali stood over a knocked-out Sonny Liston in the first round of their rematch in 1965.
Her father showed no emotion when the fight ended, but his wife Lonnie smiled broadly. The 5-foot-10 Laila Ali, who weighed 166 pounds, could have trouble finding opponents because most female boxers are not that heavy.
While the daughter was in the co-feature match, the father drew the crowd. Shortly before 9 p.m., as the ring announcer acknowledged "a man who needs no introduction," the crowd rose to its feet, cheering. Muhammad Ali then entered the ring with his wife.
In the card's main event between a pair of aging heavyweights, Donovan "Razor" Ruddock knocked out Jose Ribalta at 1 minute 40 seconds of the first round. . . .
The International Boxing Federation junior welterweight title bout between Washington's Mark Johnson and Mexico's Raul Juarez has been postponed. Johnson, originally slated to defend his title in Temecula, Calif., instead will meet Juarez next month. Although no location has been set, D.C. Armory is a strong possibility for the fight, according to a spokesman at Cedric Kushner Promotions, which promotes Johnson (38-1, 26 knockouts). . . . Palmer Park super welterweight Curtis Peoples (16-6) lost an eight-round decision to New York's Pedro Sanchez (32-6-2) in the main event of a five-bout card last night at the Waldorf Jaycees Community Center. It was Peoples' first fight in three years.
Drivers on Edge
This is the time of year that Dale Jarrett would like to focus on his bid for the Winston Cup title. Instead, he's also thinking about the threat of terrorism.
Security has been beefed up at Lowe's Motor Speedway in response to recent bombings at stores owned by the company that bought the track's naming rights, Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouses Inc.
The possibility of violence has prompted Jarrett, the series points leader, to change his routine as he prepares for Sunday's UAW-GM Quality 500 in Concord, N.C. Jarrett had planned on spending the weekend in a motor home in the track's infield but decided to commute about 70 minutes each way from his home in Hickory.
"I'm concerned," Jarrett said. "They've done a good job here of getting more security, but you just don't know, and it's unfortunate that it has to be that way."
Authorities are investigating the possibility that bombs found in three Lowe's stores were planted by someone who feels the company failed to do enough to help the victims of a May 1 crash at the speedway. Three spectators were killed and eight others injured when debris from a wreck flew into the stands during an Indy Racing League event.
U.S. Routed by Italy
Three of America's Ryder Cup heroes--Payne Stewart, Mark O'Meara and Tom Lehman--were upset by Italy, 3-0, virtually knocking the United States out of the Dunhill Cup in St. Andrews, Scotland.
"To beat the USA is a great day for us," said Massimo Scarpa, who defeated Stewart by a stroke in the second round to complete the sweep. He thrust both arms over his head at the 18th green and clenched his fists in American Ryder Cup fashion.
Emanuele Canonica, a journeyman, beat Lehman by two strokes. Costantino Rocca, a former Ryder Cup player and the only big name on the team, defeated O'Meara by two. . . .
Tom Byrum succeeded where no one else could, shooting a 4-under 67 in the second round of the Michelob Championship at Kingsmill in Williamsburg to take a one-shot lead over blistering Mike Weir, Notah Begay III and Scott Gump. On a day when the likes of Nick Faldo, Corey Pavin and others made moves and then faltered, Byrum overcame a double bogey on his seventh hole with four birdies coming in. . . .
Bruce Fleisher and Hubert Green were co-leaders after the first round of the Transamerica seniors tournament in Napa, Calif., shooting 6-under 66s. They held a one-shot lead over Dale Douglass, Howard Twitty and Walter Hall in an event that includes nine of the top 10 money-winners on the senior tour this year. . . .
Rookie Marisa Baena shot a 4-under 68 and Jenny Lidback had a 69 to share the lead after the second round of the $725,000 LPGA Betsy King Classic in Kutztown, Pa.
Agassi, Kafelnikov Out
Andre Agassi and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, battling for the world's top ranking, both were upset in the quarterfinals of the Swiss Indoors tournament in Basel. Agassi, the No. 1 player in the world, lost to 20th-ranked Karol Kucera, 6-4, 7-5. Kafelnikov was beaten by Goran Ivanisevic, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Knoche Joins Holliday
Johnny Holliday will have a new radio partner when Maryland men's basketball tips off next month. With longtime color analyst Greg Manning now athletic director at Georgia State, former American University coach Chris Knoche will join Holliday on the broadcasts on WTEM-980.
CAPTION: Car is inspected at entrance to infield at Lowe's Motor Speedway, where security has been increased.