Pugilistic Hopes and Dreams: Laila Ali vs. Ann Wolfe

11.09.04 - By Coach Tim Walker: Meeting your nemesis in competition is the stuff that dreams are made of. In the boxing ring it happens less these days than boxing fans would like so when the fate monster rears its beautiful head it must be exploited. For Leonard it was Haggler. For Gatti it was Ward. For Holyfield it was Tyson but for all the wrong reasons. These are the match ups that immortalize fighters, seize our attention and win fans.

In January of 1999 a bit of boxing history was made when Laila Ali, the daughter of renowned boxer Muhammad Ali, launched herself into the spotlight by announcing her intent to enter professional boxing. Her exclamation was met with cheers and larger than life expectations. Still, with no prior boxing experience and a famous name she was both behind the competition and ahead of the game.

Female boxing might have remained no more than the working manís fantasy of body glistening women in tight sport shirts and short trunks had it not been for boxers like Christy Martin and Mary Ann Almager. But even then womenís boxing was in its infancy and was viewed largely as a novelty. Could Laila expand womenís boxing similarly to the way her father did boxing?

Today Laila is recognized as pound for pound the best female boxer in the game. She has done this by compiling a perfect boxing record of 18 wins with no losses. Fourteen of those wins came in less than the scheduled rounds. She has proven to be a marketing commodity and packs venues irregardless of where she fights. Still, with all her success she hasnít encountered a boxer who could seriously challenge her. Her fight with Jacqui Frazier proved to not be worth our attention as Jacquiís windmill style punching, lack of ring generalship and nix of a defense made for a one sided fight. The fight with Christy Martin is not credited to Laila by many because there was an overwhelming weight disparity. So that career defining fight has yet to occur.

It is said that out of humble circumstances powerful individuals arise. This is true of boxer Anne Wolfe. Incarceration and homelessness are only a couple of the issues that she has had to deal with over the last few years. But, that which does not kill you makes you stronger. For Anne these encounters made her mentally strong and a regimen of sit ups and push ups made her physically strong.

Anneís introduction to the boxing world came with no fanfare. There was no press meeting and no seven figure signing bonus. All she got when she walked into the boxing gym was a pair of bag worn gloves and a promise of hard work. She took the gloves and embraced the hard work.

As is the case for many women boxers, Anneís amateur background was only four fights long and a little less than 5 months later she entered the pro ranks. In her first six fights she registered 5 wins and 1 no contest. Her earnings were nominal but she gave notice to the boxing world that she could be a force. There isnít a large pool of woman boxing talent and in her seventh fight she took on veteran Valerie Mahfood. This proved to be costly for Anne as she lost this bout by TKO in the third round after knocking Mahfood down in the first. Ten fights later she again challenged Mahfood but this time out-pointed her in dominating fashion.

Anne stepped it up again and challenged light heavyweight IBA champion 6í6Ē Vonda Ward and in the first round delivered the shot that was heard around the world. Anne threw a baseball-like over hand right that landed flush against Wardís face and sent the basketball height champion to the canvas, and eventually to the hospital and out of the light heavyweight division. Still, with all her success she also had no career defining fight.

Ah, Ali verses Wolfe. It seems like a good fit and it is the fight that boxing fans want to see. Most fans believe that Wolfe has enough skills to really challenge Ali. Some even pick Ali as the underdog in this fight. Technically Ali has an edge in the speed and precision. Wolfe is more proven in raw power and hunger. The Wolfe camp has been openly lobbying for a bout with Ali but this is the case for virtually every upper echelon woman boxer because Ali represents a big payday. In this case though, Wolfe signed a 3 fight contract with Aliís husband/promoter that is supposed to end with an Ali/Wolfe bout. It hasnít materialized yet.

For Anne this bout represents more than a payday. It epitomizes recognition and the challenge of a lifetime. It is an opportunity to define a career, meet a possible nemesis, and ultimately conquer. We can only hope that someday soon it will become more of a necessity for Ali to face Wolfe rather than a single option among many options. Until then Ali verses Wolfe is only a fight fanís dream.

Article posted on 11.09.2004

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