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Lots To Do To Be A Boxer
Lalia Ali knows boxing. The former professional went 24-0 in her career and won the WBC super-middleweight title in 2005. Her father, Muhammad Ali, was a rather successful professional, as well, and she learned from him.
UFC megastar Ronda Rousey is the female face of MMA and fighting in general. One of her coaches says Rousey could be a champion in boxing too, and some agree. But Ali says Rousey needs plenty of work to convert to boxing right now.
“She’s great at UFC,” Ali says, “but the things you need as a boxer, she doesn’t have yet: The head movement, the way she throws her punches. She’s not a boxer. I know she does some training and I don’t know what she’s going to do, but it’s a whole other skill set.”
It should be noted that Rousey herself hasn’t talked about switching to boxing, although her next UFC bantamweight title defense Nov. 14 is against Holly Holm, a former boxer.
Rousey grew up as a judoka. Her mother, AnnMaria De Mars, won a judo world championships gold medal at 56 kg in 1984. Rousey made the transition to MMA with the lower-body characteristics being similar in both.
As a boxer, Rousey would need to improve her upper-body skills, Ali says.
“Boxing is different in that you stand different, you hold your body different, you’re only using your hands, not your legs,” Ali says. “You rely heavily on head movement. Not all fighters do, but you’re going to get hit in the head a lot more. There’s a lot of fighters that don’t move their head, so she doesn’t have to. But I know I’ve seen her get hit when she’s in the ring with people who actually throw punches and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, gosh, she has to move her head.'”
Even watching Rousey’s 34-second knockout of Bethe Correja on Aug. 1, Ali says from a trainer’s perspective, she would not trust Ronda in the ring.
“In her last fight, she had a bloody nose,” Ali says. “The fight ended in 34 seconds. I’d be pissed. If that was me and I walked away with a bloody nose, I’d think I didn’t do something right. When you say she wants to be a boxer, I would recommend she works on head movement.”
Rousey generated some headlines last month by saying she’d beat boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a no-rules fight.
Although Ali’s father was the most famous athlete on the planet (and probably of all time), he did not push his daughter toward the ring. Laila did not even know boxing was an option.
“I saw women’s boxing on television when I was 17 years old for the first time,” she says. “I didn’t even know. I thought it was just a men’s sport. When I saw women boxing, I thought, ‘Oh my God, how did I not know women box?’ The thing that was always in me, dormant, just came alive and I thought you know what, I can do that.”
Boxing had given Muhammad fame and fortune, but it also contributed to the Parkinson’s syndrome that has limited his ability to speak. He could not believe his daughter, starting at age 18, would choose the same route.
“My dad tried to talk me out of being a boxer,” Laila says. “When he found out I was actually training to be a professional boxer and he got word, he asked me if it was the truth. I said, ‘Yeah it’s true, dad.’ He started trying to indirectly talk me out of it. What are you going to do when you get hit on the side of the head? I’m like that happened when you did it. He said what’s going to happen when you get knocked down with the whole world watching? I said I’m going to get back up just like you did.”
Ali admits she could have listened to him more: “When it actually happened, I was like that’s what he’s talking about. But you get back up and you see what you’re made of.”
Ali got a late start in boxing, but she established herself as one of the sport’s brightest stars. She publicized and legitimized women’s boxing in a similar form to Rousey with MMA.
Meanwhile, Ali has the chance to sit back and admire another notable female athlete. Ali spent her Labor Day working with children at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, where she promoted the involvement of youth sports with the USTA. In her post-boxing career, Ali has devoted her life to spreading health and fitness.
Ali was on Court 12, along with Olympic gold medalist Nastia Liukin and New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh. On the practice courts, Serena and Venus Williams rallied with their coaches, as the sisters prepare to faceoff Tuesday in the U.S. Open quarterfinals.
“I’ve always watched [Serena and Venus] and admire them because not only are they black women, so I’m going to pay more attention to them, but they came from Compton,” Ali says. “They didn’t nearly the resources. Tennis is not for someone who does not have money. You need money to play. You need money to get the best coaches. For them to be brought up by their father, and tune everyone out around them and hone in on what they wanted to be, they defined all the odds.”