Laila Ali | Reach! (Episode 607)

Laila Ali (@TheRealLailaAli) is a world-champion boxer, entrepreneur, and author of Reach! Finding Strength, Spirit, and Personal Power.

The Cheat Sheet:

  • What made Laila become the only boxer out of Muhammad Ali’s nine children?
  • Why do fighters trash talk (and does Laila regret any trash talking she did during her fighting career)?
  • How did Laila make the choice to pivot from an aspiring nail salon tycoon to a world-class boxer?
  • What was it like growing up around fame, and how does her father’s legacy still affect her?
  • How did her father react when she got serious about boxing?
  • And so much more…


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When your father happens to be one of the world’s foremost authorities on beating the tar out of other people — physically in the boxing ring and mentally as a humanitarian activist — one might be forgiven for thinking you’re following in his footsteps by taking up the gloves and contending, undefeated, for nine years.

But Laila Ali, daughter of the legendary Muhammad Ali, was the only one of his nine children to walk the path of a pugilist, and it happened in spite of her father’s journey, not because of it. She joins us to share her story and talk about her new book, Reach! Finding Strength, Spirit and Personal Power. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

More About This Show

Laila Ali has always been a fighter. As the youngest of late champion boxer Muhammad Ali’s nine children, she was the only one who also pursued boxing as a career — but not because of her father.

Ultimately, it was a televised match between Christy Martin and Deirdre Gogarty in 1996 that inspired her — and many other women — to step in the ring. Promoted by Don King as a Mike Tyson undercard, the fight was seen in thirty million homes in over a hundred countries, and it demonstrated women’s boxing could draw the crowds and cash that could sustain it as a viable sport.

“It was a brawl,” says Laila. “I mean, it was bloody, it was crazy, and I was like, ‘I want to do that!’ It’s in my blood, you have to remember. It’s in my DNA…it is crazy to say you want to fight for a living, because people are like, ‘Why would you just want to get hit for a living?’ But there is a sweet science to it. But at that moment, it wasn’t the sweet science I was attracted to. It was just the fact that, ‘I can fight and not get in trouble?’ That’s just right up my alley because I felt that I would be good at it.”

After nine years and twenty-four matches, Laila retired from her career undefeated — quite a feat for someone who didn’t even start boxing until she was eighteen. It wasn’t her first job, however; Laila owned a nail salon while going to college, with aspirations of opening more salons around the country. But it was seeing that first televised match between Christy Martin and Deirdre Gogarty that made her pivot focus and get serious about fighting.

“The seed was planted,” says Laila, “it was in my heart to do. So finally…it’s funny. I had a client who was like, ‘Well, I’m taking a boxing class downtown and he’s a great coach!’ And I was like, ‘Really?’ So I went down there and of course the guy’s like this street guy and he’s like, ‘Yeah, I’ll train you.’ I was saying that I was just doing it for fitness. It was a secret. I didn’t want people to know I was actually thinking about becoming a professional boxer.

“So he started training me. I started going after school, after work, every night, eight o’clock at night. Lost thirty pounds, and I was like, ‘I want to do this.’ Then it kind of started getting around. I met my ex-husband — he was a fighter, world champion and he saw how serious I was, and was like, ‘You’re with the wrong trainer! First of all, if you’re going to be serious about this, you’ve got to close your nail salon…'”

Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm in its entirety to learn more about Laila’s late-blooming beginning as an underestimated fighter to retiring — undefeated — after nine years, trash talk justification, how an opponent’s body language in the ring signifies when they’ve already been defeated, who gave Laila her She-Bee Stingin’ nickname (and what she thinks of it), what Laila learned from running her own business before she became a boxer, why she gave up doing something she already loved to pursue fighting, how Laila’s father felt about her taking up boxing, and lots more.


If you enjoyed this session with Laila Ali, let her know by clicking on the link below and sending her a quick shout out at Twitter:

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AJ Harbinger - author of 1050 posts on The Art of Charm

AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality. Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.

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