Muhammad Ali grimaces from his perch on a barber shop wall in a western suburb of Chicago, his face twisted by a painters brush. Shaking a gloved fist, he looms over the heads of customers every Tuesday through Saturday in a depiction of that taunting, trademark pose he struck against Sonny Liston.
It may not be the greatest rendering of The
Greatest, but it captures the essence of the man. I
am the (fill in expletive here)! he seems to be
A patron, sitting directly beneath greatness, asks his
barber, You gonna watch the Ali-Frazier fight
Uprisin! hair technician Damien Jones immediately
pulls away his clippers: HELLLL YEAAH!
Youd think Ali and his arch-nemesis, Smokin Joe
Frazier, were climbing back into the ring for one more
go, and not their daughters, Laila Ali and Jacqui
Frazier-Lyde. But their historic first meeting Friday
is generating a hype rarely enjoyed by womens sports
- or by boxing in general these days.
Its going to be a pretty fight - literally, said
Jones, 24, whos pulling for Laila. He and
10 friends plan to watch the pay-per-view fight, which
takes place at the sprawling Turning Stone Casino
Resort in Verona, N.Y., after seven undercard bouts,
starting at 7 p.m. EDT.
Its going to be good to see two feminine and soft
specimens do something masculine, Jones said. I
think were going to get the best of both worlds. We
get to see two beautiful women fight.
Arguably thats part of the reason why America quickly
is becoming fascinated with Ali and Frazier-Lyde. Both
women dolled up for a recent cover of TV Guide and
Laila, who has graced talk shows and national
commercials, has the makings of a Madison Avenue
With her looks and pedigree (and provided shes even
modestly sucessful at boxing), its frightening how
quickly the striking 23-year-old could eclipse most
other female professional athletes as a celebrity and
To put it bluntly, right now Laila is the (fill in
Her elevated profile should come as no surprise. Her
mother, Veronica Porsche, now divorced from her father
was a professional model. Ali takes sexy publicity
photographs inside the ring and designs her own
If Im working this hard, I want to look good in the
ring, she said recently.
Frazier-Lyde has made less of an impression on the
national conscience, but the 39-year-old Philadelphia
lawyer has been no less entertaining.
It would be a great draw, Frazier-Lyde said of a
match up with Ali before her debut. It would establish
Laila financially, then I would establish her
horizontally. She also told listeners to the
nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show, Im
going to cut her pretty.
The verbal sparring between the fighters is more than
just hype and hyperbole; theres a real buzz around
bout, said Frank Belmont, president of Belmonte
Productions, the events producers.
A representative of iN DEMAND, the fights
pay-per-view distributor in North America, declined to
comment Thursday on the number of orders for the bout.
But Belmont was optimistic.
This thing couple weeks ago was pretty low key,
Belmont said. Its picked up tremendous buzz in the
Obviously, getting on the cover of TV guide,
Newsweek, USA Today, appearances on Good Morning
America, the Today Show, helps (sales), Belmont
said. My office has had calls from all over world
from wire services, the BBC, Reuters. Even the
unlikely pair of Lifetime and National Public Radio
want in on the action.
Its a story, whether or not you like boxing or
womens boxing, Belmont said.
Its that hook thats perturbs sports purists and
other female boxers, who complain that neither Ali nor
Frazier-Lyde represents the best of womens boxing.
Television audiences and fans like Jones dont seem to
mind. Belmont added, I dont look at it as a normal
fight. I see it as an event. As an event, I think its
Personally, I think if its a good fight, the rematch
would be huge.