How Laila Ali Proved to the Skeptics—Including Dad Muhammad Ali—That "Women Can Fight"

In an exclusive interview with Today's Jill Martin, professional boxer Laila Ali recalled the moment she realized she could become a world-famous athlete.

By Mike Vulpo Mar 15, 2022 2:00 PMTags

Never underestimate the heart of a champion!

Despite growing up with legendary boxer Muhammad Ali as her father, Laila Ali didn't focus on sports during much of her childhood. But once she became a young adult, that all changed.

"I actually did not even think about becoming not only an athlete, but a boxer until I saw women's boxing on television for the first time when I was about 19 years old," Laila shared in an exclusive clip from Shop Today With Jill Martin. "I was in awe and I couldn't believe that I didn't know that it was an opportunity available to me. That's when I first got the idea to become a professional boxer."

But if you assume the People's Champion was thrilled to hear that his daughter was following in Dad's footsteps, guess again.

"My dad was not happy about it," Laila recalled to Jill Martin. "He literally tried to talk me out of it. I had to prove him wrong. ‘Dad, I can understand why you feel that way, but just watch me.'"

Sports Nuts: Famous Fans

After Laila won world titles and countless knockouts during her career from 1999 to 2007, she received the respect and support of her dad, one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time. "He apologized and said, ‘I was wrong. You were right. You can fight and women can fight and I'm proud of you,'" Laila recalled. "Of course that warmed my heart."

Vivien Killilea/Getty Images

Throughout the month of March, Shop Today with Jill Martin is celebrating Women's History Month with inspiring stories and products from incredible female founders.

Laila stepped away from the boxing ring to conquer the world of home decor with her own collection at the retailer At Home.

"I believe your home should be a sanctuary where you can relax and refresh," she previously said in a statement. "My style is comfortable yet refined, modern but there are still some touches of tradition as well. I like to walk into a room and feel a hug." 

The full conversation on Shop Today with Jill Martin streams Thursday, March 17 at 11:30 a.m., and 5:30 p.m. on Today All Day.

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