Laila Ali: ‘my dad tried to talk me out of boxing’

My father loved me, but one of the ways we’re similar is that we’re both very stubborn and strong-willed.

Surprisingly, one of the biggest disagreements we had was when I made the decision to box. My father tried to talk me out of it. “What if you get knocked down?” When I told him I didn’t care, he said what was really on his mind. “Boxing isn’t for women; it’s a man’s sport.” (Now that I’m a parent, I understand that he was worried about me.) I told him I was still going to do it.

Every time we didn’t see eye to eye, he always said it was my choice, even if he’d rather I didn’t take that path. He cared about my opinions. And he treated others the same. He showed everyone, from the janitor to the Pope, respect and kindness. That humility stuck with me; it’s why I do philanthropy work today.


At my 2002 championship fight in Las Vegas, he was in the arena. Hearing the chorus of “Ali! Ali!” took him back to his days in the ring. I could see the light in his eyes. After I knocked my opponent out, he told me he was wrong. “Women can box. You can box, and I’m proud of you.”

My father loved the fact that I chose to do what was in my heart, because that’s how he lived his life. In that way, I’m just a chip off the old block.

This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of Women's Health. For more great advice, pick up a copy of the issue on newsstands now.


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