Could Laila Ali be coming out of retirement for one last boxing match? If recent interviews with the groundbreaking boxer and daughter of Muhammad Ali are anything to go by, she’s at least considering it.
Ali, who is arguably one of the biggest names in women’s boxing history, has been engaging in a war of words with Claressa Shields, who is arguably one of the best in women’s boxing history, over the past few weeks. And both say that they’re open to the prospect of settling things in the ring.
Here’s what we know so far about a potential blockbuster boxing match between Laila Ali and Claressa Shields:
Who is Laila Ali?
Second generation boxing legend Laila Ali probably requires no introduction. In addition to being the daughter of the greatest of all time, Muhammad Ali, she has also played a vital role in bringing more attention and respect to women’s boxing. Ali initially took up boxing after watching women’s boxing trailblazer Christy Martin in action. At 21, she made her professional debut, defeating April Fowler with a first round knockout. Her famous name brought more attention to women’s boxing, but it was her performance that kept it there. Over the course of her eight year career, she earned a 24-0 record and held multiple world titles at Super Middleweight and Female Light Heavyweight. She fought in two of the biggest matches in the history of women’s boxing: a 2001 bout against Joe Frazier’s daughter, Jacqui Frazier-Lyde, and a 2003 superfight against her women’s boxing inspiration, Christy Martin. Since retiring in 2007, Ali has been busy working as a television personality, model and spokesperson.
Who is Claressa Shields?
Current women’s boxing sensation Claressa Shields shouldn’t need any introduction, either, but the attention she’s received hasn’t always been in line with her significant achievements in the sport. Now ranked as the world’s best active female Light Middleweight boxer, Shields is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time World Champion. Since turning pro, she’s earned a perfect 10-0 record and multiple world titles. Shields has even held all four of boxing’s major titles at the same time. She’s one of only seven fighters in the history of boxing who has achieved this distinction. In addition to her stellar boxing career, which is still in its prime, the 24-year-old Shields is also considering a career in MMA.
What has Laila Ali said about Claressa Shields?
Ali and Shields have exchanged words through the media before, but their rivalry was reignited when Ali was asked if she’d return to boxing for fun during a recent appearance on The Breakfast Club. Ali playfully dismissed the question, saying that there was no one who would give her a good challenge. Although she wasn’t specifically named, Shields didn’t appreciate the comment, and their back and forth escalated from there.
In a January appearance on SiriusXM’s Sway in the Morning, Ali addressed Shields more directly. “You want to call yourself the GWOAT [Greatest Woman of All Time], that’s fine,” Ali said on the show. “It’s flattering. You look up to my father. We both thought that was cute, that was sweet. But at the same time … first of all, she could never beat me. Let me just get that really straight right now. We’re not even in the same weight class. I know that she walked around heavier, but that would not happen. And not simply because she’s not strong enough — because I would definitely knock her out — but because she’s not talented enough. You’re talented, you can box. You can throw those hard punches, but there’s a sweet science to boxing. The reason why you have not been able to knock out the opponents that you have already faced, I can totally see it why.”
What has Claressa Shields said about Laila Ali?
In an interview with TMZ Sports, Shields was all for a potential women’s boxing superfight. She was even willing to have some fun suggesting potential weight classes and purses. But she doubted Ali’s commitment, dismissing her as “all bark, no bite.”
“Laila may think that she’s big and bad and all that stuff, but when it comes to boxing, there is no woman on this earth that can beat me,” Shields said. “If she wants to fight, I’m all there for it,. We can fight at 168 [pounds]. She said she’s 200 pounds right now. I’ll give her a year, a year to get ready, and since I’m so easy to beat, the loser gets $5 million and the winner gets $10 million. I’m going to home with $10 million, a freaking multi-millionaire. I’m not going to lose.”
Could Ali vs Shields really happen?
A superfight between Laila Ali and Claressa Shields could be a boon for women’s boxing. Long before they became potential rivals, Ali was an inspiration to a young Shields, which gives the match the same historical hero vs current star appeal as the Ali vs Martin fight once had. Going against a name like Ali would also give Shields more of the acclaim and money she deserves.
But how likely is it to happen? Ali seems to be considering it, at the very least. When asked a similar question about coming out of retirement on the February 21st edition of ESPN’s First Take, she gave a slightly more committed answer. “I would have to be inspired by the opponent,” she said. “I have to be inspired by the purse. I have multiple things going on, I have multiple streams of income. I don’t HAVE to do it. I have to WANT to do it.”
And Shields, she added, is the right kind of opponent. “Especially that mouth. When it’s personal, that starts a fire. When the money’s right, when the money makes sense, then why not?”