By Gary Duff | August 3, 2017 | People
Boxing great Laila Ali talks about why she's working with the Children's Hospital Los Angeles, and who she thinks will win the Mayweather vs. McGregor boxing match.
On the eve of the CHLA's Play LA event this Saturday—where Ali will be leading several fitness clinics for children alongside mixed-martial artist Anderson Silva, NFL player Keyshawn Johnson, and several other athletes—we chatted with her about her efforts to encourage fitness among children and what she thinks of the spectacle surrounding the Mayweather vs. McGregor boxing match in Las Vegas this month.
Tell me about the work you'll be doing this weekend with the Children's Hospital Los Angeles, and what you'll be doing this weekend to help with their cause.
LAILA ALI: We’re going to have so much fun this weekend, because, along with some other athletes, we are going to be doing clinics with kids, and it’s going to give them face-to-face interaction with professional athletes who are going to be leading the clinics, mentor the participants, and impart fun, easy, lean, sports skills, to promote the need for an active lifestyle. A lot of the work that I do is about encouraging kids to be healthy and active.
And as you know, now, kids are spending more time than ever on the computer, or on their phones. They’re not getting outside, and moving as much. So, we’re hoping to get them moving and inspire them to continue, even after the event.
I've always found it difficult to maintain that level of discipline though, but how do you do it?
LA: For me, I learned that that was possible for me to do, individually, through boxing, because I had a goal. My goal was to become a world champion and to learn a skill, which I had to go to the gym to hone every day. I actually loved it because I was learning.
I get that everybody doesn’t want to be a professional boxer, so I always try and encourage people to find something that they can enjoy doing. It might be bike riding, skateboarding, tennis, ballet, or even football. But, no matter what you do, be consistent with it. Not everybody wants to work out in a gym or play sports, but you’ve got to keep your body active.
I would be remiss not to ask you about the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight, and what you think of the spectacle it has become.
LA: I haven’t really been paying attention to what’s going on. I can imagine, because you’ve got two individuals who like to hype, and who are very motivated by money, and who understand that they have to promote this fight on a big level for people to buy it. McGregor has a lot of fans, Mayweather has fans, but you’ve got a UFC fighter coming in to fight one of the best boxers in the world, and he doesn’t even have one fight under his belt.
He’s going to have to try to say something, and do something, to make people feel like he actually has a chance. And you know, you always, technically, have a chance, because you could just land one good punch and knock somebody out, right? But unfortunately, you’re getting in there with one of the best defensive fighters in the world who, trust me, has been in there with guys just as strong, if not stronger, than you are, who actually know how to fight.
So, to think that you’re just going to throw a shot, and that’s just going to end the fight, there’s a fat chance that’s going to happen. That’s not a fight I’m interested in seeing, to be honest with you, but if somebody buys it, and I can come over and watch it, I’ll watch it. I’m not buying it though!
And is that door closed for you? Do you ever see yourself training or coaching new talent?
LA: No, but I still train. I still work out. It’s funny though, there’s a girl named Cyborg, who’s a UFC fighter, who reached out to me via Twitter. She’s one of the best, and one of the girls that Ronda Rousey never fought, but who was calling out Ronda Rousey. But she asked me to connect with her and give her some boxing tips. I told her, “Sure! I’ll even spar with you. I’ll get in the ring. That’ll be fun!”
I can go four rounds at any moment. Even if I’m not in my best shape, I can make it through four rounds. So, at some point, we might get in the ring, and I'll show her some moves, but that’s it. I’m not trying to box professionally. There’s nothing there for me.
I’m on to other things! I’ve got a podcast and a cookbook coming out. Now that I’m done with the cookbook, I’m about to start getting back on TV again. I’m getting ready to start doing some hosting again. I’ve got other fish to fry.
For more information about CHLA, or to sign up for its Play LA event this Saturday (Aug. 5) from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, visit chla.org/playla.
Photography courtesy Allen Cooley Photography