Ramla Ali sees off García Nova in Saudi Arabia’s first ever female boxing bout
History was made on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s fight with Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday evening when the first women’s fight took place in Saudi Arabia. But sadly for those in attendance it did not last long as the British-based Somali boxer Ramla Ali required only one minute and five seconds of her super-bantamweight clash with the Dominican Republic’s Crystal García Nova to secure a knockout victory.
It was a stunning triumph in more ways than one as Ali, having forced García Nova back with a fast and aggressive start, unleashed a twisting right-hand shot to the side of the face so powerful that it knocked the gum shield out of her opponent’s mouth. Shocked and shook-up, García Nova fell to her knees and was soon counted out.
“I feel really good but I feel I need to go back and do some more pads … I didn’t really get out of first gear,” said Ali, having extended her professional record to seven successive wins.
Ali’s story is an inspirational one. As a child she fled war-torn Somalia with her family and settled in England where, as a teenager, she took up boxing in an effort to lose weight. It developed into a passion and ultimately led to her becoming a successful amateur, winning a host of titles including the 2016 Great British Championship. Five years later she became the first ever Somalian – man or woman – to compete in boxing at the Olympics.
Now comes this milestone, although not without controversy given Ali’s defence of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record in the buildup to the fight.
The 32-year-old claimed “the way the media portrays Saudi Arabia is not entirely accurate” and that “women are free to do whatever they want [in the kingdom].” Those comments provoked a response from Amnesty International, who accused Ali of falling for Saudi Arabia’s sportswashing tactics and dismissed the idea that the staging of this fight was in anyway progressive. Amnesty’s head of priority campaigns, Felix Jakens, said: “Away from the glitz and spectacle of the boxing ring, the reality for women in Saudi Arabia is that they face serious discrimination in marriage, divorce, inheritance and child custody.”
Those comments clearly did not affect Ali’s focus ahead of this fight, and having won she made clear her desire to compete for a world title sooner rather than later, with her promoter, Eddie Hearn, confirming that is very much the plan for a fighter who in her spare time also works as a model and activist. “There’ll be a world championship fight in 2023 for sure,” said Hearn, who added: “I’m convinced she will be a world champion.”
Ali now intends to rest and heal, having revealed that she has been fighting for some time with a fractured wrist and toe.