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Ali drops O'Neil early in first round, defends titles

2/3/2007 - Boxing

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Laila Ali wasted little time
in retaining her WBC and WIBA world titles, knocking out Gwendolyn
O'Neil of Guyana at 56 seconds of the first round Saturday in their
super middleweight fight.

The 29-year-old daughter of boxing great Muhammad Ali headlined
the first women's professional boxing match in South Africa. She
improved to 24-0 with 21 knockouts.

"I have my cell phone back in the dressing room, and I will be
giving my father a call," she said.

It took only two stiff straight rights from Ali before referee
Ian John Lewis counted out the challenger in the scheduled
10-rounder. Ali apologized to fans, including former South African
President Nelson Mandela, for the brevity of the fight.

"I would have liked to have shown the fans a few more rounds,"
she said. "But, hey, I'm happy with the KO."

Ali took a punch to her left eye in early exchanges and was
unable to see out of it.

"I was glad to land that first right and have a chance to let
it clear," she said.

O'Neil fell on her back after that right, and took a mandatory
eight-count before continuing. However, she was clearly stunned and
it was a matter of time before the second straight right landed. A
wobbly O'Neil struggled to her feet but was counted out.

O'Neil's record dropped to 12-1-5. She was knocked out by Ali in
the third round in 2004 in Atlanta.

"I was out to make it quicker than the last time," Ali said.
"But I did not expect it to be this quick."

Ali barely made the 168-pound weight limit at Friday's weigh-in.

"This will be my last fight for a while," said Ali, who
previously said she plans to have a family.

Ali also met with Mandela's ex-wife, human rights activist
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, in Soweto and spoke to students at a
school during her visit.