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Laila Ali says Nelson Mandela reminds her of The Greatest

Laila Ali, in Johannesburg, South Africa, for her February 3 super middleweight title bout against Guyanan Gwendolyn O’Neil, told Reuters that Nelson Mandela, the 88-year-old anti-apartheid superhero who brought white rule on the dark continent to its knees, reminds her of her father, The Greatest, Muhammad Ali.

“He (Mandela) is a very humble man and there is a lot of energy in the room and I could feel his spirit,” Ali said. “When I am holding his hand, he is walking on his cane he reminds me so much of my own father. That same energy that I get from him. So he is like family.

Ali said that Mandela, known affectionately in South Africa by his clan name “Madiba,” had given her a bona fide shot in the arm: “I have already gotten the Madiba magic just being around him.”

The former South African president and 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner boxed as a young man, so he was asked if he had any tips for Ali as she prepares for Gwendolyn O’Neil.

“Look, said Mandela. I cannot advise present fighters because I was a fighter many, many, many years ago and the rules have differed so it’s better for me to keep quiet.”

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