Laila Ali made a one-day pit stop in Manhattan Wednesday.
This story first appeared in the March 12, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The purpose of her trip was a media event at the showrooms of Marika, the activewear brand for which she serves as spokeswoman.
Ali, known as one of the world’s most recognizable female athletes and president of the Women’s Sports Foundation — as well as the daughter of boxing legend Muhammad Ali — said she may have retired from professional boxing, but she still spars a few rounds to keep in shape.
While she’s busy being a mom with two children and serving as Marika’s role model across all marketing platforms, Ali’s connection with the world of boxing may be reignited in July at the Summer Olympics in London.
“I’ve been approached to be a spokeswoman for the boxing Olympics.…I don’t have experience with amateur boxing, just professional boxing. But I’ve been approached to be involved in some kind of way in the Olympics,” said Ali. She acknowledged that offers have come from TV networks and other professional organizations.
Ali said the perception of female athletes in male-dominated sports has changed to a certain degree over the past decade, but not completely.
“I think there are still some people who think it’s [a female boxer] odd. But people are more open to more things today.…You’ve got female race car drivers, bull riders and football teams….But there are still some people who are uncomfortable watching women box or boxing at all,” said Ali.
In addition to leisure boxing, Ali has other ways to keep in shape.
“I try to eat as clean as possible with whole foods from the earth, foods my body can process like lots of lean meats and veggies, fish and whole grains. I stay away from processed foods full of sugar. It’s not just about being thin, it’s about being healthy,” explained Ali. “I evolved from, ‘OK, I want to be a world champion’ to ‘OK, I need to lose weight and get in shape to when you get pregnant, you need to change the way you eat….A lot of athletes in boxing don’t eat healthy because you have to make weight, so eating is very important when you have to get weighed. But you burn so many calories you can get away with it.”
“Cooking is also a passion of mine and my husband and I have a cheat day and we splurge [on food]. We just went to Maestro’s in Beverly Hills where the dessert was a warm butter cake with vanilla ice cream and strawberries — that’s my splurge,” she quipped.
When dealing with her professional and personal life, Ali says she follows two important tenets taught by her father.
“My dad had a pretty excellent jab, so he always told me, ‘perfect your jab,’ which is the most underplayed move in boxing. I think in general, he taught me to never step on anyone to get ahead and treat everybody in their place in life with respect. He lives like that,” said Ali.
Since she is a self-proclaimed foodie, Ali is asked if she baked a birthday cake for her father who turned 70 in January.
“No,” she replied, laughing. “There was a party at one of Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants, Spago, and then a party at the MGM in Las Vegas with Snoop Dogg….I looked at my dad, and his eyes were all lit up with the music and the half-naked girls….My dad’s not into the [Snoop Dogg] music, but he likes the character, ‘Oh, I’m a pimp.’”