The Weekend Leader - Push the limits

Don’t let your fears hold you back from accomplishing your dreams: Laila Ali

Anu Gulmohar


Vol 2 | Issue 37

Laila Ali, former boxing world champ and daughter of legendary boxer Muhammed Ali, has an incredible 24-0 record with 21 knockouts. She tells Anu Gulmohar how she pushed the limits to get ahead

I am a person who has always been very confident. From the time I was a young girl, I thought I could do and be anything that I wanted to. My parents are responsible for instilling this quality in me.

Unbeaten: Laila Ali holds an incredible record of 24-0 with 21 knockouts (Photos Courtesy: The Sunday Indian)

My father led by example, while my mother always encouraged me to do my best and never made me feel limited by her comments or personal beliefs about the world.

So when I saw women’s professional boxing for the first time, I was captivated, excited and wanted to get in the ring. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that I could beat any opponent I would ever face.

Everyone thought I was crazy for wanting to “mess up my pretty face” and even told me I wouldn’t be able to handle “those rough girls.” This was as long as 14 years ago. I’m now a retired World Champion Boxer who is undefeated with a record of 24-0 with 21 knockouts.

Boxing will always be my first love. Singing is my second. I can remember putting on my mother’s clothes, standing in front of the mirror and singing Whitney Houston songs into a remote control.

Nobody could tell me I didn’t sound good, but of course I grew up and found out that I don’t sound like Whitney! I decided to start taking vocal lessons. My voice coach always said I have a beautiful “tone” and nice “texture.” But to me, that was similar to telling an over-weight woman that she has a “pretty face.”

His comment made me challenge myself to get good enough for him to say, “You have a great voice,” because that would make me feel complete.

Laila, as a child, with her father, the legendary Muhammed Ali

As an adult, it has taken me a long time to accept my voice. I always wanted to sing but limited myself because I couldn’t sing as well as I thought I should be able to. After five years of voice lessons and competing on Dancing with the Stars, I finally stopped comparing myself to everyone else.

I decided I would have my singing debut on my wedding day. Yes, I would sing to my husband, on stage at our reception dinner, in front of 250 wedding guests.

My voice coach thought I would get cold feet and possibly back out. Just knowing he thought that created a challenge for me that I had to defeat. I continually told my husband, Curtis, I was going to serenade him at the wedding knowing that he would not believe me.

As far as he knew, I was too shy to sing anywhere other than the shower. So, of course, I had to prove him wrong too. In actuality, I created pressure for myself because I knew that was the way to get the best results. Singing had become a challenge that I created for myself. Now I had to prove to myself that I could get on that stage and sell it! Not only did I have to do it…I had to do it well.

I got on that stage and sang my song like I had been doing it forever. By the time I was done, I wanted to keep going. I felt like that little girl singing to her mother’s mirror again. This talent that I had, but never shared, blew everyone away.

It was similar to the situation when they learned that I could box and dance too. My voice coach was proud and my husband blushed.

On that very day, I grew into an even stronger and more confident woman because I defeated the limit that I had put on myself for so many years.

Published by special arrangement with The Sunday Indian


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