Laila Ali - "AH..gile, MO..bile, and HOS..tile"

20.07.04 - By Bernie McCoy: Agile, mobile and hostile was the intentionally alliterative description that Alonzo S. "Jake" Gaither, that wonderful gentleman and legendary football coach at Florida A&M, used to describe the qualities he looked for "in his boys." Those qualities are also extremely helpful when assessing a good fighter. Laila Ali is agile, mobile and hostile in the ring and those attributes were on display Saturday night, on a PPV telecast from Bowie, MD, as she dismantled a game, but decidedly, overmatched Nikki Eplion.

Eplion had exhibited a touch of a hostility of her own during the pre-fight press conference, stating, "I don't think she [Ali] will have an answer for [my] big left hand." Eplion's plan also included adjusting to "anything she has to bring to the table" and, true to her plan, Eplion came out with hostile intentions in the first round. However, as that increasingly venerable ring philosopher, Mike Tyson, once said, "Everybody has a plan....until they get hit." That concisely summarizes the fight Saturday night: Eplion had a plan....she got hit....and the plan went missing. In the second round Eplion began going backwards and there's only been one fighter who could ever punch effectively going backwards and that fighter, named Ali, wasn't the one in the ring in Maryland Saturday night.

In the third and fourth rounds, Eplion, retreating from the pursuing Laila Ali, found the ropes and the corners with her back much too often and hit the canvas four times before the bout was properly stopped with thirty seconds remaining in the fourth round.

Lailia Ali thus gained her seventeenth straight win and fourteenth KO, while exhibiting those qualities that Coach Gaither and fight trainers have long treasured. The unfortunate aspect of the action on Saturday is that those qualities were not on display against more formidable opposition. Eplion, a former Toughwoman winner, sporting a 14-1 record prior to Saturday, was coming off a one-sided loss to Leaticia Robinson last February in Huntington, WV. At the end of that bout, the three judges gave Robinson 24 of 30 rounds, in a venue that was essentially Eplion's hometown area, so it's a valid surmise that the Robinson win was probably close to a shutout. It was reported that Robinson was "considered" for an Ali matchup, but "the parties couldn't agree on money." It can be assumed that a Ali/Robinson matchup would have been considerably more competitive than the bout on Saturday.

It has also been reported that Ali will climb back into the ring underneath the Mike Tyson/Danny Williams PPV bout in less than two weeks in Louisville. No opponent for Ali has been named at this date, but, ignoring for the moment, the competitive implications of fighting twice in less than two weeks, it is doubtful that Leaticia Robinson will be in the other corner on July 30 in Louisville.

It's no major headline to anyone who follows the sport of Women's boxing that the fight for Laila Ali is with Ann Wolfe and that questions about Ali and her place in the sport will persist until that match is made. Ali has, with relative ease, defeated everyone who has been put in front of her in the almost five years she has been campaigning as a professional fighter. It's also true that due a particular dearth of quality fighters in her weight division and what can be, kindly, classified as "careful" matchmaking, Ali has yet to be competitively tested.

Ann Wolfe has been campaigning for an Ali bout for at least two years and the usual suspects have proffered the usual reasons for the bout not happening: "Wolfe is not ready"; "The bout needs to be properly promoted"; "The bout will happen, eventually, when Ann Wolfe is an attraction and the money is right." The fact is that Ann Wolfe is ready and has been for quite some time. Wolfe's stunning one punch KO of Vonda Ward is proof positive of her "readiness" and a "clip" of that one punch knockout is as good as any promotion needs to get. Money is always an issue in boxing, but in the case of Ali/Wolfe, it, hopefully, won't be utilized as an excuse to not make the fight. Showtime, ESPN, even HBO, among the "boxing" networks, cannot, even at their most shortsighted, ignore the value and compelling attraction of Ali/Wolfe. At the very least, considering the fare that was presented from Maryland on Saturday, Ali/Wolfe is a PPV event waiting to be scheduled.

Laila Ali is a very good fighter; her record and her performance in Maryland on Saturday night proved it once more. Laila Ali has the requisite qualities that Coach Gaither looked for those many years in Tallahassee, and then some. Ann Wolfe, currently waiting down in the heavy heat of Texas, is also a good fighter who would probably agree with the assessment of Ali's mobility, agility and hostility. Ann Wolf's question is: Is Laila Ail also available?

Article posted on 20.07.2004

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