With the shine that women’s boxing is getting coming out of the Olympics, the boxing world is hearing all about Claressa Shields and Marlen Esperanza. However, there is another female boxer in the news lately. One of the original icons of women’s boxing, Laila Ali, is back on the TV screen, but not to the ring.
Laila is one of a cast of celebrities partaking in the new NBC series entitled “Stars Earn Stripes”. The premise being that the stars take on the tasks that those who serve our country in the military do, competing against each other and getting a different insight as to what these men and women do to keep our borders safe. Each star is paired with a member of the military representing each of its several branches, who will help the stars complete the challenges and provide training.
Ali described the challenges as “More mental than physical.” Elaborating that she went into the competition thinking it was going to be more of a physical thing, “I thought that as long as I was in some kind of physical shape I would be fine, but it wasn’t that at all.” She continued to explain that she relied on her partner to help her release the pressure she felt from challenges like target practice or repelling off of a wall. The challenge that made her cry, as it has been talked about in the media, was actually “not a big deal.” Continuing, “I didn’t want to do it, I was tired and I am a cry-er, that is how I let it out. But I stayed committed to the task and remembered why I was doing it; the people in the military actually do all of these things.”
While our conversation steered away from the topic of Stars Earn Stripes, we got to chat about the Olympic Games that recently took place this summer in London. As most boxing fans know 2012 was the first year in which women were allowed to compete in the Boxing events. With two of the three women on the American boxing team taking home medals (one gold and one bronze), and Ms. Ali fresh off of the commentating desk from the games, I thought it appropriate to ask what she thought of the outcome and if Women’s boxing could be making its way to the forefront. “It takes more than one good fighter to make Women’s Boxing mainstream. But there was some good talent showcased at the Olympics.” She mentioned by name Katie Taylor of Ireland, who took home gold in the lightweight division, as well as the Americans; Claressa Shields of Michigan, who won gold, and Marlen Esparza of Texas. When speaking of Shield, the golden girl, Ali said that while she is quite the presence, Shields might not be able to single-handedly bring women’s boxing to the main stream in America. Ali ended the boxing part of our conversation simply stating, “I am not involved in women’s boxing.”
So what’s next for the Dancing With The Stars alum? Aside from the current TV competition (which airs Monday nights at 9 pm ET on NBC), there is a hair product line in the works, a line of healthy seasonings and marinades, a makeup and skincare line that is currently being sold in Target and Wal Mart, as well as shows on the Food Network in development and a current YouTube channel entitled Around the Clock. Simply put by Ms. Ali herself “I’m focusing on my Lifestyle Brand.”
As you may have noticed, a lot of the products are focused on health. As a self-professed naturally “big girl”, Ali has made it a point to get back into shape after giving birth to her children. We spoke about the (very familiar) journey. “I was an elite athlete; I saw my body at its best. I know that I cannot get back to that. My body is not naturally 160 lbs. I don’t work out three times a day anymore. But I am trying to be the best version of me that I can be.”
Through the conversation there was one constant that I noticed. Not only did Laila have an answer for every question, it was communicated, though unspoken, that she was just doing her job. Whether it be Boxing Champion, TV Competitor, Host, Mom, or Product Namesake; the job is simply to be Laila Ali.