Laila Ali (not to be confused with Khaliah Ali) – daughter of the legendary Muhammad Ali and a champion boxer herself, is working on new moves and a future that seems to be, well, a knockout.
Muhammad Ali may have used “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” to describe his own signature boxing style, but the phrase applies equally well to his youngest daughter, Laila – undefeated in two dozen women’s professional boxing bouts (21 by knockout) and a popular finalist on the Dancing with the Stars.
Currently on an open-ended hiatus from the ring, the 29-yearold newly-wed – husband Curtis Conway is a former NFL wide receiver – just released a series of workout DVDs with boxing superstar Sugar Ray Leonard.
(“We took a lot of moves boxers do and created a workout for nonboxers,” she says, “so people can get a boxer’s workout and a boxer’s body without ever getting into the ring.”) But Ali’s plans reach well beyond boxing and her dazzling daddy. And you’ll remember, he had a helluva reach.
Do you feel you’ve had to fight – literally – to be taken seriously as your own person, not just Muhammad Ali’s daughter? “I knew that it would come with time. Of course, people were skeptical in the beginning. They didn’t understand why I wanted to box in the first place. They said, ‘Why would a pretty girl want to box?’ They thought I had to have some sort of agenda – that I must want to become an actress or a model. But you don’t set out to be a boxer in order to become something where your looks are involved! I just wanted to box.”
Why did you want to box? “I think something within me made me want to do it – I mean, it’s got to be in my blood somehow. But the first time I saw women boxing – it was 1996, Las Vegas, when Christy Martin fought Deirdre Gogarty on Mike Tyson’s undercard – I knew I had to do it. And in October 1999, I did.”
How did your dad feel about your decision to enter the ring? “He was surprised. I wouldn’t say pleased. But he did support me. His main concern now is that I just continue [to be a winner].”
Best advice he ever gave you? “Not to step on anyone else to get ahead. A lot of times, people feel as though they’re competing with everyone around them and that if others are succeeding, they themselves are failing. In that mindset, I guess stepping on others makes sense. But I don’t think that way, largely thanks to my dad. I think there’s more than enough goodness to go around.”
What does your training consist of? “Right now, I’m dancing 5 or 6 hours a day [for Dancing with the Stars], and I do Pilates three times a week. I love Pilates because it gives my body a longer, leaner look than traditional strength training, which I do when I’m fighting. After I finish Dancing, I’ll probably start lifting again a couple days a week and keep doing Pilates, maybe even add another day. And I’ll run 45 minutes to an hour – usually 5 or 6 miles – 4 days a week. I also want to do yoga.”
What else do you want to do – beyond yoga, beyond fighting? “I plan to start working on a lifestyle and fitness book. I want to develop a nutrition line of my own and a skin-care line for women of color. I eventually want to get into fashion. I’d love to have my own cooking show. I haven’t ruled out entering the ring again. Not necessarily in that order.” [via]