Who is Laila Ali?
Laila Amaria Ali is an American professional boxer who was active in the ring during 1998-2007. She holds the super middleweight titles in women’s category across WIBA, WBC, IWBF and IBA championships. Laila Ali also holds the light heavyweight title in the women’s category in IWBF championships. She started-off with boxing at the age of 18 with inspiration from a Christy Martin and Deirdre Gogarty fight on television. Laila made her ring debut in 1999 at the age of 21 knocking out opponent April Fowler within 31 seconds into the first round. She fought her last match in 2007 against Gwendolyn O’Neil knocking out the opponent in the first round. Apart from professional boxing, Ali has gained popularity as a multi-media personality with her television appearances, modeling and book writing ventures. In 2002, she appeared as a boxer in a music video by ‘Default’, the hard rock band from Canada, which gained immense popularity on music channels. Her most popular television appearance was in 2007, when she appeared on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ as a participant partnering with professional dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy. She continues to work as a health and fitness expert and television show host.
Childhood & Early Life
Laila Ali was born on 30 December 1977 in Florida, US to the boxing legend Muhammad Ali and Veronica Porché Ali, the third wife of Muhammad Ali. She is the eighth amongst her father’s nine children.
She is an alumnus of Santa Monica College in California and holds a business degree. She was into her own nail salon business before entering professional boxing.
She was a rebellious child and sent to juvenile home when she stole her mother’s car.Career
Laila Ali’s ring debut in 1999 was a high-profile event owing to her popularity as the daughter of boxing legend Muhammad Ali. Her debut nearly coincided with the US state boxing commission sanctioning first ever male-female professional boxing bout as exhibition matches. The timing of her debut and the sanction brought about more attention to women’s inclination towards professional boxing mostly dominated by men.
In 2001, Laila faced Jackie Frazier-Lyde, daughter of another legendary boxer Joe Frazier with the match receiving wide publicity given the popular bouts fought by their fathers. The event was termed the first ever main-event pay-per-view match between the two women. Ali beat Frazier in the eight rounds bout with a majority judges’ decision in her favor.
Her biggest match came through in 2003, when she was in the ring facing her inspiration Christy Martin. Ali won the match against Martin beating the latter with a knockout in four rounds.
Ali gave up professional boxing in 2007. In her last match, she faced Gwendolyn O'Neil in South Africa and claimed the match by technical knockout in the first round.
In 2007, Ali was one of the high-profile participants in ‘Dancing with the Stars’. Her performance on the show received wide appreciation given that she was a novice to dancing at that time. She finished third in the competition.
She later continued her television appearances as a host alongside Hulk Hogan for the revival of American Gladiators in 2008. The same year, she also appeared in the show ‘Celebrity Family Feud’ along with the cast of ‘American Gladiators’ and as a contributing correspondent on ‘The Early Show’.
In 2012, she started co-hosting ‘Everyday Health’ alongside Ethan Zohn and Jenna Morasca. The ABC show features the lives of normal people with health issues who were able to overcome their problems to do extraordinary things.
Later, she appeared in two of the celebrity reality shows ‘Stars Earn Stripes’ and the ‘Biggest Loser’ both aired on NBC in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
In 2013, she stepped in to co-host the talk show ‘Fashion Police’ on E! Channel as a temporary replacement for Giuliana Rancic, when the latter took her time off for maternity reasons.
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During 2013 and 2014, Laila Ali made a number of television appearances either as a host or as a participant. The most noteworthy appearances include ‘Celebrity Wife Swap’, where she swapped roles with singer ‘Angie Stone’; ‘Chopped: All Stars’ where she competed in support of a favorite charity organization and made it to the final round; ‘All in with Laila Ali’ on a CBS and ‘Late Night Chef’ on FYI as a host; ‘The New Celebrity Apprentice’ as a participant.
In 2002, Laila Ali co-authored ‘Reach! Finding Strength, Spirit, and Personal Power’ along with David Ritz. The book talks about her personal experiences, her time in juvenile home and her state of mind due to the celebrity status of her parents, in an attempt to inspire the youth without being a gospel of advice.
Awards & Achievements
She holds numerous world boxing championship titles in the super middleweight category with a record of accomplishment reading 24-0 in her favor during the nine years of professional boxing career.
She holds the WBC World Super Middleweight title for 2005 and 2007, WIBA World Super Middleweight title for 2002 and 2007, IWBF Female Light Heavyweight title for 2004, IWBF Female Super Middleweight title and IBA Female Super Middleweight title both for 2002 and 2004.
In 2012, she received the Awakening Outstanding Contribution Award (ACOA).
Personal Life & Legacy
Laila Ali married Johnny "Yahya" McClain in 2000 but the marriage ended with a divorce in 2005. McClain was her manager and career guide when they were a couple.
She later married retired NFL player Curtis Conway in 2007 and has two children with him. Their son, Curtis Muhammad Conway, Jr., was born in 2008 and their daughter, Sydney Jurldine Conway, was born in 2011. Ali lives in Los Angeles with Conway and their children.
Early on in her life, she denounced Islamic faith, a religion her father embraced by converting from Christianity. She attends the Church service on Sundays, though there is no official statement of her embracing Christianity.
She was a rebellious child and had a troubled teenage, arrested for shoplifting and caught red-handed trying to commit fraud with credit card. She claims to have endured physical abuse in jail.
Ali claims that love and passion for professional boxing has helped her deal with depression and general bad behaviour.
While many assume that Laila Ali got into professional boxing inspired by her legendary father, but she has always claimed that her father did everything to dissuade her from choosing professional boxing as he thought that boxing is not for women.
Ann Wolfe, another top boxing champion has claimed that Laila Ali has always found ways to avoid facing her in the ring. Ali has maintained that certain boxers demanded huge money during negotiation phase in a move to avoid facing Ali in a bout.
In 2006, amidst allegations of fraud, Ali stepped back from facing Gwendolyn O'Neil. The two women, however, met in the ring again in 2007, where Ali defeated O’Neil. Incidentally, the match happened to be Ali’s last professional fight.