WASHINGTON - In the mixed martial arts, which incorporates wrestling, jiujitsu and boxing, Erin Toughhill rates among the world's best. Her Web site depicts her knocking out and even breaking the limbs of opponents.
And at an earlier press conference, she told Laila Ali she would kick her "butt."
But after nearly three rounds in the boxing ring with Ali at Washington's MCI Center last night, a bloody and badly beaten Toughill didn't look so tough.
With her father, Muhammad Ali, looking on, Laila Ali scored a third-round knockout of Toughill (6-2-1), of Huntington Beach, Calif.
Ali bloodied her opponent's nose in the first round and nailed her with more than 20 unanswered punches in the third before Toughill turned her back in her corner to avoid further punishment, causing referee Joseph Cooper to wave an end to the fight at 1:59.
Ali ran her record to 21-0 with her 18th knockout in defense of her World Boxing Council and Women's International Boxing Association super middleweight (168 pounds) titles before 15,472 screaming fans. Muhammad Ali hugged his daughter in the ring after the fight and told her, "You're bad."
"I am the champ. It was wonderful. It adds to my fire to be fighting in front of my father," said Ali, 27, who turned pro in 1999. "People are not ready for me to hit my opponents like that. She was cowering in the corner. Damn, I tore her up."
Alluding to the procedure of submitting in mixed martial arts, Ali said, "You cannot tap out in boxing."
Muhammad Ali had entered the arena to the chants of "Ali, Ali, Ali" from the crowd. He acknowledged them by making a fist as he extended his left arm as if throwing one of his famed jabs.
The fight was Laila Ali's third on an undercard featuring former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson (50-5, 44 KOs), who met Kevin McBride (32-4-1, 27 KOs) of Brockton., Mass., in the main event. Tyson received a visit from the senior Ali in his dressing room prior to the fight.
Since turning professional in 1999, his daughter, who weighed in a pound less than Toughill at 167, has gone from laughingstock to standard bearer for women's boxing, just as her father towers over the men's version of the sport.
She shows not only glimpses of her father's inimitable talent, but a willingness to mix it up, along with an appetite for destruction when a rival is hurt. Ali, who once owned a nail salon, is often at her most volatile when she feels an opponent has publicly shown her disrespect.
Ali, bouncing up and down in her aqua-blue garb, shot a menacing glare at Toughill during the introductions.