Athlete Laila Ali hung up her boxing gloves in 2007 after an impressive undefeated career, but her fight plan now is to knock out apathy among girls and women when it comes to physical activity.
Ali travels the world to motivate others about the importance of exercise and healthy eating. She also discusses gender equality in sports, which takes on greater meaning this year as the country celebrates the 40th anniversary of Title IX.
“Women have many ways to be empowered and only get one shot in their lives,” says Ali, world champion boxer and president of the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF). “We want to give young girls a way in life, and sports is one way to do that.
“I want to inspire everyone to stay active and continue to make girls strong with wellness.”
Ali is the keynote speaker at the “Title IX at 40: Progress and promise, equity for all” conference at 5 p.m. Wednesday. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will take place in the Rackham Amphitheatre. She will discuss women and sports, as well as how sports affected her life.
The conference is presented as part of the Michigan Meetings, a series of annual interdisciplinary meetings of broad interest to the public and the academic community.
As the youngest daughter of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, Laila Ali never felt motivated to compete in team sports during her childhood, nor did her parents push her into sports. “Some people think I got into boxing because of my father. I saw other women boxing and felt inspired” to step into the ring at age 18, she says.
Before boxing, she says, she was about 20 pounds overweight.
“I never realized that I had the potential to look and feel so much better until I saw the difference in my body after training and eating properly for a year,” Ali says. “As a kid, I ate whatever I wanted, when I wanted.”
After a 24-0 professional boxing record, which included 21 knockouts, she now works as an entrepreneur and advocate of health and fitness. Ali says her focus is helping create a healthy world for children.
Regarding Title IX, Ali says the statistics indicate more girls are participating in sports, but the law still is needed to continue the progress.
Ali’s appearance here kicks off the three-day Title IX national conference that is organized by the SHARP Center for Women and Girls.
For more information about the conference, go to irwg.research.umich.edu.
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