Laila Ali, daughter of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali and his third wife, Veronica Porsche Ali, watched her dad move from boxing to legendary humanitarian. This year, she had to bury the man who meant everything to her. Now she’s reflecting on her dad’s legacy on her life and how to move forward.
Laila grew up in Southern California with her parents and her older sister, Hana. After a troubled period in her teens, including time in a juvenile detention center, she earned a degree in business management at Santa Monica College. She worked as a manicurist while attending school and then owned a nail salon.
Ali, who became a boxing champ herself, retired with an undefeated, 24-0 record.
While Muhammad Ali was concerned over his daughter’s boxing career at first, she had to move forward what was in her heart.
“He tried to talk me out of it indirectly, but obviously I did what I wanted to do, and he knew I was going to do what I wanted to do. He had so much respect for the fact that I did what I believed in, just like he did. He wanted me to be my own person,” Ali said to CBS News.
She made sure to blaze her own trail.
“I knew in the beginning of my career … if I start trying to be like my dad now, I’ll never be able to stop,” Ali explained. “So I went about my own career in my own way — and I love my dad, I love him, but I love me, too. So I wanted to do my own thing.”
Despite the death of her father, Laila Ali is standing strong.
“Obviously I’m sad, I’m going to miss my father, but I’ve been sad for a long time because my father’s been struggling with Parkinson’s for a long time,” Ali said.
“So I’m happy knowing that he’s no longer struggling, and that’s what gives me comfort,” Ali said.
Ali made her professional boxing debut at the age of 21, on October 8, 1999, in a bout against April Fowler. She knocked out her opponent 31 seconds into the first round. Over the next eight years, she faced off against many leading names in women’s boxing.