Like Father, Like Daughter -- Another Ali Rules the Ring

It was 35 years ago that Muhammad Ali took to the ring in Madison Square Garden for the Fight of the Century against Smokin' Joe Frazier.

On Saturday night, Ali's daughter Laila will step into the same ring to take on Montana's Shelley Burton with an attitude quite like her father's.

"Of course I'm not nervous," she said.

And like her father did, Laila has risen to the top her sport -- with a record of 22 wins, no losses and five women's heavyweight boxing crowns.

She entered the sport at the relatively old age of 21 and recognizes that being a fighter takes a special sort of person.

"To be a fighter, I think we're all a little off, to want to fight," she said. "It's off to want to be a fighter for a living."

Although Laila has pursued the same sport as her father, she has a strikingly different persona in the ring. He was a boxer, jabbing and dancing around the ring -- as he said, "Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee." She describes herself as more of a fighter.

"I have to work at boxing," she explained. "I know how to do it, and when I do it I look good doing it, but it's not what comes to me first. What comes to me first is standing there and just throwing punches, and, you know, as I call, scrapping. I like to just stand right in front of you."

Although Laila has found herself fighting the same sport as her father, she spent much of her young life trying to differentiate herself from him.

She admits that she and her father were never that close. When Ali cheated on her mother and they divorced, Laila says, she took her mother's side.

After that, Laila only saw Ali during the summers. And she was the only one of his seven children who never converted to Islam.

"I was pretty much trying to find myself and a lot of times not wanting to be Muhammad Ali's daughter and, you know, people just liking me for that reason and seeing that there was a lot of fake people around my dad and people just want from you, aren't really your true friends," she said. "So I would -- as a child, you know, I'm going out on my own trying to find my way and then of course I found trouble."

In fact, Laila started fighting outside of the ring.

"When people tested me, you know, I wasn't one to back down. So never would I start fights, but I was never -- I've always been a scrapper," she said. "I never counted, but I'm undefeated, put it like that. I'm undefeated on the streets."

And the trouble did not stop there.

When she was 16, Laila was caught shoplifting and was put on probation. Just a few months later, her boyfriend gave her a credit card and told her to buy as much as she wanted at the Gap. Laila did not know that the credit card was stolen, and she was sentenced to three months in juvenile hall.

Laila sees her mistakes as a blessing.

"That's how you learn," she said. "I mean you don't get burned, you don't learn, you know?"

Laila finally took to the ring when she was in college, after seeing boxer Christy Martin in the ring.

"I never even knew women fought -- women fought and I felt like I could do it," she said. "So that's when I went to the gym and started training to see if I had the natural talent, because I'm the type of person, I'm not going to try to do it if I don't -- if I don't have it, you know?"

Turns out she did. In 2003, just four years after she turned pro, Laila beat the woman who inspired her to box in a four-round technical knockout.

Laila has found herself in the same ring as her father, but has a different reaction to the fame that comes with the name of Ali.

"He loved the attention, I'm the opposite," she said.

So what did drive her to the ring -- especially to a ring that is typically reserved for males?

"People think that -- for example, I have no problem -- I would have no problem, if I have a problem with someone, kicking their butt. But, in society that's not right, but to me it's right," she explained. "I'm the type of person that I believe in pain. I believe in pain, and I believe people learn from that. So I don't take that into the ring with me, but I'm just talking about just my whole frame of mind is different than the average person."

Laila Ali is conflicted about so many things -- about fame, about her father, who was not there for her when she was young and who is even harder to reach now -- so it maybe be that it is only when she is in the ring that the world is easy to understand.