Laila Ali made a guest appearance at Oprah Winfrey’s 2020 Vision: Your Life In Focus Tour stop in Charolette, NC on Saturday January 18th. Just days before, she took to Instagram to make the official announcement.
During her transformation talk at the Spectrum Center, Laila Ali told the story of her evolution growing into the unstoppable power house that she is today. In addition, Ali opened up about how she transitioned from nail salon owner, to heavy weight boxing champion.
“Fast forward in time, I was about 18 years old, going to school full time, living on my own. Yes, I had a nail salon at the time, I was doing nails. Ya’ll didn’t know that. I do a good pedicure. Best massage you ever had, my husband knows it. I was very ambitions.” says Ali.
While at a friends house watching the Mike Tyson fight, she realized her life would soon to have a shift in direction. “We’re getting ready to watch the fight, and all of a sudden, woman walk into the ring. I had no idea that woman boxing even existed until that moment. So I watched the fight, and was in awe. I went home that night dreaming about becoming a professional boxer myself.”
Before becoming a boxer, Ali had never been an athlete, nor participated in any kind of sports. She really had to make the commit to herself. “Did I really want to follow in the footsteps of the goat (referring to her father Muhammad Ali)? I mean, would I be able to do what it takes to become a boxer? I had no idea what it would take. I wasn’t that little girl in the gym with my father watching him. My father had been done boxing by the time I was old enough.” She went on to say that training to become a boxer was one of the hardest things she has ever done.
Although her dream was soon to come true, it did not sit well with many people, including her father. “So the news had got around that I was in the gym training, and I remember my father had came in town and confronted me. Me and my father had about three really important conversations in life. Life changing conversations that changed his life, and mine…and this was one of them. He said, ‘I hear your boxing…is it true?’. I was like yes dad. I was real confident. He said, ‘The whole world is going to be watching you, you have a light shining on you. Do you know how much pressure your going to be under?’.”
After convincing her father that she knew what she was up against, and having the confidence to bless in herself, the responds from her father was far from encouraging. “What if you get knocked out? Or you get knocked down?” her father asked. Laila responded, “Ima do what you did dad, I’m going to get right back up”. Not convinced, Laila stated her father, Muhammad Ali replied, “It’s too hard. It’s a mans sport, and it’s not for you.”
Lalia still did not let that stop her. “I said, I understand how you feel, but I’ve made my decision, and it’s final. I had to do what was in my heart, just like he did, and thats what I told him.”
Six months after their talk, is was time for Ali to make her first pro debut as a boxer. With her father in the audience, she showed the world that she was a true fighter and won the match in less than 7 mins. Ali went on to win 4 world titles, and 21 knock outs.
After she won her first world title, her father stated that he wanted to talk to her backstage. “He said, ‘I was wrong'” Ali told the audience of 15,000 people a the Spectrum Center. She then paused on stage to shed a tear reminiscing on that memory that will stay in her heart forever. “He said, ‘You can fight, and woman can fight’. That wasn’t only a win for me, it was a big win for us. Because my father thought a certain way about woman. And he tried to put a limit on me, and I didn’t let him. My desire to become a world champaign was so strong and so pure that I didn’t let anyone else limitations, or fear on me stop me. Not even my own father”.
This past Friday, January 17th, 2020 marked what would have been the 78th birthday for Muhammad Ali. Laila Ali shared a photo in memory of her father to her Instagram page.