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'She Bee' flies in but stung by lack of fanfare

By unknown | 2007-01-24 00:00:00.0

Bongani Magasela

Bongani Magasela

The keenly awaited arrival of Laila Ali is over.

The famous female world boxing champion landed at OR Tambo International Airport yesterday afternoon. Though expected at the weekend and then again on Monday, her arrival has ended doubts about whether or not she was coming.

"She Bee Stinging" left Cape Town in a huff after the cancellation of her proposed fight with Gwendoline O'Neill in July. Now she is back in the country to defend her WBC and WIBA super-middleweight titles against the same opponent.

Their historic rematch will be promoted by Golden Gloves at Emperor's Palace on February 3.

Ali's fight with the "Stealth Bomber" will be the first female title match in South African boxing, which dates back an estimated 120 years.

A proposed fight with O'Neill last year attracted attention, partly because her father, Muhammad Ali, stung George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle in Kinshasa, in then Zaire in 1974.

Laila, whose arrival with her entourage did not attract the expected massive media coverage, was not able to shed light on the circumstances that forced her fight to be cancelled.

Clad in a blue tracksuit, Ali was welcomed by her manager, Damon Dingham, who has been in the country for a week, and Golden Gloves' match-maker Ruben Rasodi.

She was whisked away in a four-car convoy to Emperor's Palace, where a press conference was scheduled to take place at 7.30pm.

Officials from Boxing South Africa were absent, as were boxing fans.