Laila Ali says Erin Toughill made a mistake in agreeing to fight her in a super middleweight bout Saturday night in MCI Center. During yesterday's pre-fight news conference at Howard University, Toughill was clearly outmatched when she got into a verbal exchange with Ali, the second-youngest daughter of former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, widely considered the greatest talker of all-time.
"She really believes that she can beat me," Ali, the current champion in two women's boxing weight classes (super middleweight and light heavyweight), told a roomful of reporters and fans in the Blackburn Center Ballroom. "That makes it all the better for me. When you actually get to break somebody's heart, it makes it that much better. When you can break their [rear] and hand it to them, it makes it all the better."
Ali, 27, is unbeaten in 20 professional fights, knocking out 17 opponents. The Los Angeles native is the youngest of Ali's two daughters with his third wife, Veronica, and she lived with her mother after her parents divorced when she was 8. Ali, 5 feet 10 and 168 pounds, graduated from Santa Monica (Calif.) Community College and owned a beauty parlor before she started boxing professionally in 1999.
Ali's good looks and father-like charisma have helped make her the biggest attraction in women's boxing. For yesterday's news conference, she wore a cream pant suit, gold necklace and diamond earrings. Toughill, an equally striking 28-year-old with long jet black hair, wore a black sleeveless top and blue jeans.
"She looks very good for a woman," former welterweight champion Roger Mayweather, Ali's trainer, said of Toughill. "But this isn't modeling. We ain't modeling, we ain't taking pictures and we ain't posing."
"She can't win at that either," said Johnny "Yahya" McClain, Ali's husband and manager.
Although Ali had a limited relationship with her father while growing up, she admits her famous last name has helped her become the most recognizable and marketable fighter in women's boxing.
"The bottom line is when you've come from where I come from, from my father's history, the expectations are very high," Ali said. "I have a very important last name behind me. Of course, you've got to back it up with skills and talent, but I wouldn't have gotten to where I am today without my last name."
But she said being Muhammad Ali's daughter also carries a big burden in the ring.
"I can say one thing about men's boxing," Ali said. "There's a lot of respect for a champion who's undefeated. That's not the case with me. Because of who I am, these girls think I've been given everything and haven't fought anybody. . . . I have a lot of experience with these chicks who think they can walk up and disrespect me. They train and run their mouths and think they can take what I've worked hard for."
Under Mayweather's direction, Ali has polished her boxing skills. She says she doesn't fight like her father and doesn't act like him out of the ring much, either.
"I'm a boxer, but I don't mind going into the kitchen where it's hot and take chances," Ali said. "That's the biggest difference between me and my father. I'm more of a brawler. My dad was a lot nicer than I am. My dad was more of a people person."
Ali, who is fighting on a Mike Tyson undercard for the third time, said she's nearing the end of her boxing career.
"When I first started boxing I said I only wanted to fight for five years," Ali said. "It's been about that long."
For now, though, Ali seems more than focused on beating Toughill, a former mixed martial arts and jiu jitsu competitor who hasn't lost in boxing since she dropped a four-round unanimous decision in her pro debut in 2000.
"We intend to put punishment on her," Mayweather said of Toughill. "Just like a man, put it that way."