Ali and Baloyi win, but what a disappointment

BY Deon Potgieter ON February 03, 2007
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Ali came to Emperor's Palace to fight, O'Neil thought she could stay out of her sight, but got such a big fright, when she was caught with a magnificent right. Shocked and bewildered was O'Neil, she never realized how hard Ali's punches would feel. Some thought she would come to brawl, but all she did was reel and fall.

I've never seen Gwendolyn O'Neil fight so am not aware of what level of talent she has, but on her performance Saturday night against Laila Ali a paper bag could have put up more resistance or a semblance of a show than she did. The whole thing was over in 56 seconds. The first clean punch Laila “She bee stinging” Ali landed sent her to the canvas. Receiving an eight-count, O'Neil rose to her feet, Ali stepped in shot out a right to the top of O'Neil's head and it was all over.

Some boos were heard directed at O'Neil from the disappointed audience. With ticket prices starting around $50 US, they weren't happy with what they got. The sold out crowd had come to watch Ali fight and all they saw was her measuring up her opponent and then throwing two clean punches. Ali herself looked dismayed and frustrated that O'Neil fell over without putting up anything that could even be mistaken for a fight. Ali apologized for it being over so quickly and said she had worked hard for the fight and wanted to put on a show for them.

By all accounts Ali looks to be the real deal and takes her craft seriously. Had she been in against a competent opponent this historic fight, the first professional bout between two women ever to be staged in South Africa, would have contributed to the development of women's boxing in the country. Instead it achieved nothing for the sport which is currently in a dead end zone. My first impression of O'Neil was that she was a dud and unfortunately I was right. Why did the matchmakers not ensure that Ali would face someone who could at least showcase her talents and serve as inspiration to the powers that be to support women's boxing?

Perhaps in her younger days O'Neil had something to offer, but where I was sitting she was a zero. She did not look the part. She could not speak so added no value at press conferences, never looked a threat in any way, and by this account can't take a punch and can't fight. Why was she challenging for a WBC super-middleweight world title? That's right, this was supposed to be a world title fight. If mismatches of this caliber are allowed to happen then women's boxing has no chance of survival. All the good that was achieved by Ali's visit was negated by this pathetic mismatch. It was the first time in years that a venue, albeit only around 2800 people, has been sold out for a boxing event locally in years. Methinks after this, many won't return.

It's frankly an insult to the likes of Ali, who clearly is a professional sport's woman and deserves more respect from sanctioning bodies and promoters than to be placed in a ring with useless opposition. It does nothing but harm to all concerned. Trainer Colin Nathan, whose gym Ali used in preparation for the fight, confirmed that Ali has a healthy work ethic, has natural ability and is keen to learn and refine her skills. But it seems that the powers that be are content on merely cashing in on her name than allowing her to develop into the great fighter she could well be in her own right.

“I'm not retiring,” said Ali after the fight, “but I'm going to take some time off because I would like to have a baby, so this will be my last fight for quite some time.”

(On a surprising note, former State president Nelson Mandela made a rare appearance ringside to watch Ali's bout as well as the two preceding ones.)

The main supporting bout saw Cassius Baloyi, 33-3 (19), in fine form as he blew away Argentina's Nazareno Ruiz, 25-10 (9), in three rounds to win the IBO junior lightweight world title. This is Baloyi's fifth world title, although four of them are from lesser respected sanctioning bodies, namely the IBO and WBU, with one IBF crown thrown in the mix.

It was clear from the first clean shot Baloyi landed on his man that he was going to finish the night early. Ruiz did try to make a fight of it in the first round, but Baloyi's superior hand speed had him in all sorts of trouble by the end of the first round. Ruiz came back a bit in the second round which was fought at a slower pace and landed some good shots to the left side of Baloyi's head. In the third Baloyi caught his man with a right cross which had him down and dazed. Although he rose to his feet, he was out and Baloyi landed two soft left jabs to the Argentinean’s face which sent him falling into the ropes. The referee stepped in and called the bout at 1 minute 6 seconds of the round.

Although this was the first time Ruiz was knocked out in his 35 fights he was in essence an easy touch for a man of Baloyi's abilities. All eyes are now on the Malcolm Klassen – Mzonke Fana IBF super featherweight clash scheduled for May 5th at Emperor's Palace. Baloyi's camp has already posted a challenge to Klassen's camp, assuming he'll defeat Fana. Former WBO and WBU heavyweight world champion Corrie Sanders, 41 -3 (31), will also be featured on the Klassen - Fana bill in his second fight since returning to the ring late November last year. Sanders, who was ringside Saturday night, is excited by the prospect of Vital Klitschko's impending return and hopes to get another crack at both the Klitschko brothers. His record against them is 1-1, but believes he could beat them both this time round.

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