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Friday's Connector of the Day – Laila Ali

December 17th, 2009
06:29 PM ET

Muhammad Ali is one of the world's best known sportsmen ... instantly recognisable for his gift of the gab, as much as his fancy footwork and phantom punch. His life story transcends boxing and his ongoing struggle with Parkinson's disease raises troubling questions about boxing's safety.

When one of his daughters chose to box, she became a new reason for the media spotlight to focus on women and the sport.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/17/lailaali.art.jpg caption="Daughter of Muhammad Ali: Laila Ali is a champion of health and fitness."]

Laila Ali, undefeated in her 21 professional fights and the first woman to win a World Boxing Council title, has followed in her father's footsteps, cementing her own legacy as one of the greatest female boxers. Like her father, Ali has quick feet, a stiff jab, and natural self-confidence.

Ali headlined the first ever women's professional boxing match in South Africa in 2007. These days, upcoming stars in female boxing, such as world super-middleweight boxing champion Natalia Ragozina, have named Ali as the number 1 opponent they dream to fight. But Ali is concerning herself with new projects.

"Dancing with the Stars" in 2007 attracted attention all over the U.S. and gave her a public platform. Passionate about children's health Ali has been a figurehead in anti-obesity campaigns, and promoting girls in sports. She has named her biggest accomplishment of late getting married to sports broadcaster and former NFL player Curtis Conway, and giving birth to their son, 'CJ.'

Emerging from the dangerous world of boxing as a glamorous advert for the sport – what do you think of women participating in the ring?

Send your questions for Laila Ali here and we'll put the best of them to her on Friday's show.

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. David

    I enjoyed seeing you on the band stage at the Stratosphere (Las Vegas) one night after a title match. You were posing for photographs, and answering reporters' questions. You seemed quite happy to do this, and everyone complemented your gracious demeanor. Looking back, how do you see the spotlight in terms of the media and the public?

    December 18, 2009 at 12:35 am | Reply
  2. Simone

    In my day, kids used to go outside and play. With computers and video games, kids don't do that anymore. How can parents encourage their kids to become active and eat healthy?

    December 18, 2009 at 1:10 am | Reply
  3. Prashant

    Her Father set the legacy... & she followed. Who does she expect to follow her? Has she ever tried to redesign the Boxing sport especially for women?

    December 18, 2009 at 2:55 am | Reply
  4. Rami Othman

    Leila Ali,

    How do you do it? that simple. Usually its hard for a person to step out of their parent's shadow especially if their accomplishments are great. I believe it was more pressure on you than your father because its human nature for us to say hey that's "X's" kid..and what are the chances? You prevailed, what is your mindset, and did you have to work on your character while you were growing up knowing these things...how did you beat it Laila. I saw some of your boxing...and behind all that sweat i remember telling my friend...btw, she's pretty look at her eyes and nose...i was worried about them heh. How were you able to peal off the animal in you in that ring and come back to the woman you are now? The feminism, and beauty, elegance, grace that we see...was it something you worked on? Usually, when someone perfects a profession, they remain in that box and are unable to beat its habits or nature. You did it twice. first beating the ALI pressure....and then beating the boxing atmosphere and what comes with it. Now i see you as a pretty cat...that got its nails out when it had to...but put them away when the dust settled. Now you're entering another phase of your life....i admire your ability to PREVAIL in different fields and desire to achieve. I relate to you in terms that i feel i will have several fields not just one major and seeing you gives hope to me...that's why im a 24 year old guy looking up to you...you are able to close doors in your life and know that other doors will open and if not, you will make them open. So again, how do you do it Laila? Where inside of you?

    Your fan from Egypt,

    December 18, 2009 at 5:57 am | Reply
  5. Olatunji Ariyomo

    I am one of her father, Muhamed Ali's fans. However, for what it is worth, boxing should be left as a sport. Attempting to stretch boxing beyond sport is sheer invitation to emotional anarchy and possible bodily damages. Basically, what I am saying is that having been happily married with a child, then Laila Ali should concentrate more on how to use her brain to secure financial breakthrough for her family and herself in order to be able to support others who might be in need rather than continuing to depend on sheer brawn as boxing offers. A good example is Tyra Banks who is presently making waves as a talk show presenter. Any business taht require physical exertion is only good when one is in his prime. Laila should thus quit professional boxing when the ovation is loudest for there is nothing like a dead hero. I look forward to seeing her use her brain more.

    December 18, 2009 at 8:00 am | Reply
  6. Mohammed Hassan

    Laila are you the only child?
    I'm a fan of your father since 1974 He is one of the greatest people I admire. May ALLAH bless him .

    December 18, 2009 at 10:53 am | Reply
  7. david

    Mohammed Ali will always remained mine number one idol in the history of boxing and i admire him cause, he has got a kind of style that no other boxer can emulate, that's really makes him different from any other one.Though i have heard of Laila Ali and how great she is in the ring, and that reminded me of her father.Boxing is a pretty wild sport and i wouldn't recommend it for a beautifull lady such as Laila.At same time congrat!!! for the privious wins.Wemen are much better in other field of sports and should be encouraged, not in boxing.

    December 18, 2009 at 2:23 pm | Reply
  8. Dan Almeida

    Hey Laila, here in New Mexico, we have a female champ named Holly Holm. She is about your size, what are the odds of you and her getting it on in 2010?

    December 18, 2009 at 3:04 pm | Reply
  9. Hamza Ali


    In some part of your life, do you plan to use your celebrity status and charm for raising awareness about Parkinson's syndrome? Like goodwill ambassador for raising funds for anti-parkinsonism treatment research etc?

    Best wishes for your career and family from Pakistan!

    December 18, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Reply
  10. Janece


    Congratulations on the birth of your son! I have admired you for being a leader of women in sports, and I think it's incredible that you are branching out into other areas, while continuing to encourage girls and young woman to become more involved in sports, competition and themselves. I don't really have a question for you in regards to boxing or any of your projects, but wanted to let you know how much I admire you and your father. The only question I guess I have for you is this: How is your dad doing?

    December 18, 2009 at 6:34 pm | Reply
  11. Hector Cosmas

    I have 2 daughters of my own. Phoebe 7 and Daphne 5.

    How did your parents protect you from the dangers of the outside world and at the same time encourage you to be confident and successful?

    What is your advice?

    Best wishes and blessings to you and all your family.
    Hector, Athens, Greece.

    December 18, 2009 at 8:26 pm | Reply
  12. oday yahfoufi

    my son was born on jan 17 1993 i named him after your father because i love your father so much and i met him twice in two different world once in lebanon and the other in zaire when he beat george Foreman i had plan to take my son to meet your dad in los angeles on his first birtrhday but the earth quake hit that area big time on his first birthday jav17 1994 he get injured slight cut in the forehead
    Since then we moved but we still wish to fulfill that wish as we live now in michigan and i know your dad situation
    I hope you can help

    December 19, 2009 at 5:14 am | Reply

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