|Friday, February 14
Updated: February 15, 4:21 AM ET
Fighting in Louisville for first time, Laila Ali a hit
ESPN.com news services
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Laila Ali put on a show in her father's childhood home, even though he wasn't there to see it.
The youngest daughter of former heavyweight champion and Louisville native Muhammad Ali stopped Mary Ann Almager with 1:55 left in the fourth round Friday night to defend her IBA super middleweight championship at the Louisville Gardens.
A rowdy capacity crowd of more than 4,000 chanted, "Ali, Ali!'' as the 26-year-old Ali made her way to the ring for the main event of ESPN2's Friday Night Fights.
Her father, who lives in Michigan, stayed home because of an illness, promoter Chris Webb said. Muhammad Ali's brother, Rahman, and his nephew, Ibn, were in attendance.
It was Laila Ali's first fight in the city where her father grew up in the 1940s and 1950s.
Dressed in a gold T-shirt with "Stinging like a Bee'' embroidered on the back and shining gold shorts, Ali had Almager on the defensive from the start, using a sharp right hook to repeatedly force the challenger into the ropes.
Almager connected with a right of her own in the second round, but Ali never stopped attacking. Ali unloaded a flurry midway through the third round, then finished off the 34-year-old Almager with a left-right combination to her midsection in the fourth.
Almager spit out her mouthpiece before the referee called a technical knockout.
Ali improved to 14-0 and scored her 11th career knockout. Almager, a Texas native, dropped to 14-6.
Almager raised Ali's hand after the fight and the two walked around the ring to applause.
Former Louisville basketball coach Denny Crum and former heavyweights and Louisville natives Jimmy Ellis and Greg Page also attended the fight. Page, who severely injured his brain in a fight on March 9, 2001, sat in a wheelchair, but chatted with fans and appeased many with photographs.
Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Clay in Louisville on Jan. 17, 1942.
He fought in Louisville as a professional five times between 1960 and 1961. Every fight was held at Freedom Hall, the arena that is now the home of the Louisville Cardinals basketball team.
In undercard action, Chris "The Mechanic" Smith upped his unbeaten mark to 14-0-1 after stopping veteran Sam Garr in the tenth round of a scheduled 12-round welterweight fight. Smith, fighting out of Queens, N.Y., continually pressed the action while scoring several telling right hand leads, dropping Garr to 32-6.
Chad Van Sickle upped his unbeaten mark to 11-0-2 after being awarded a unanimous decision victory over Joshua Jones in a six-round cruiserweight bout. Jones, now 4-1-, controlled the opening round behind an effective jab and then lost every remaining round while absorbing a punishing beating along the way.
Also, women's welterweight action saw Fredia Gibbs improve to 9-1-1 after being awarded a unanimous decision victory over Kanicia Eley in a four-round fight. Gibbs was awarded the contest on cards reading 40-36 twice and 39-37.
Information from the Associated Press and Maxboxing.com was used in this report.