Johannesburg: Laila Ali, current world super middle-weight champion, has arrived in South Africa ahead of her bout against Guyana's Gwendolyn O'Neil. The 29-year-old touched down at Johannesburg's Oliver Tambo Airport on Monday, giving her nearly two weeks to prepare for the fight, which is scheduled for February 3. Ali will be defending her women's International Boxing Association and WBC Female super middleweight belts. She was due to fight O'Neil in August last year in Cape Town, but the match-up was cancelled after local promoter Joe Manyathi failed to meet his financial obligations. Manyathi had reportedly offered Ali an appearance fee estimated at around 3.5 million rand, which did not materialise at that time. This prompted South Africa's Minister of Sports and Recreation Makhenkesi Stofile to launch an investigation into Manyathi's Sta-Trade Company. Gearing up Ali, the daughter of boxing legend Muhammad Ali - who recently celebrated his 65th birthday - made her boxing debut in 1999. She knocked out O'Neil - a 37-year-old mother of five - in the third round of their International Women's Boxing Federation light heavyweight championship back in 2004. Ali anticipates a similar result in their next contest. "I look forward to the challenge - the fact that she wants to fly all the way out here and try again is enough motivation for me. So, what, did I stop her in the third round last time? I'll probably get her in the second (round)," she said. Ali also claims that self-confidence and hard work have been the keys to her success. "I believe that a lot of people underestimate how important it is to have confidence in yourself, and self-belief in yourself, and you can pretty much do whatever you want to do," she said. The February 3 fight is scheduled for 12 rounds, and will be the first professional bout between women boxers to take place in South Africa.
Topics : Boxing