Ramla Ali: Working with Meghan Markle changed my life

Around February 2022, I first learned about Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk’s heavyweight boxing Rage on the Red Sea. That’s when me, her husband, and the manager Richard came up with the idea of ​​running a campaign with my promoters and organizers in Saudi Arabia to let me in. It will help you compete there and create positive change. After harassing my promoter CEO, Frank Smith, for months, we finally got the long-awaited call. She will face Dominican boxer Cristal Garcia in the first-ever women’s professional boxing match in Saudi Arabia on August 20th.

It was a great feeling to be a part of such a historic moment and a cultural shift towards equality in the region.

This fight, the seventh since starting his professional career in 2020, is probably the toughest test in terms of competition, and the most important one outside the ring. I represent not just myself, but all women in martial arts. Allow the world to understand that we deserve the same platform and opportunity as our male counterparts.

Headlining women’s fights in Saudi Arabia is always a goal, but I feel that without the support of more female fans, that opportunity doesn’t exist. It will only happen if there is a demand for female headline fights.

face criticism of the Saudi fight

Ramla Ali makes history in August
Ramla Ali speaks to the media ahead of a press conference for ‘Rage on the Red Sea’ held at the Shangri-La Hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on August 17, 2022.
Francois Nell/Getty Images

Saudi Arabia is my holy land, so I feel an incredible sense of honor as a Muslim woman, but I have faced criticism for fighting there. does not appear to be getting To confirm this, you only need to read research on analytics from her platform on Social and the great successes of certain news outlets.

I believe that change is not fast and simple. I think it’s a lot of small steps towards equality, but if people, countries and governments are moving in that direction, it should be supported.

It should be remembered that the first time Saudi women were allowed to participate in boxing at the Olympics was in 2012, and even then women’s entries were lower than men’s. gradually became equal. So I see this fight as another step towards equality for women in the region. A small step, but a step in the right direction.

We also worked with the Saudi Boxing Federation to host one of the Sisters Club sessions on August 18th to connect with local women. The Sisters Club is a non-profit organization that I founded in January 2018 for him. At her four locations in London, she offers free boxing classes to hundreds of women each week. I created these classes for religious and ethnic minorities, and those who have suffered domestic violence. They help women learn self-defense through the sport of boxing. We have recently started hosting events in other sports such as rowing, running and soccer to give our sisters the chance to experience other disciplines. We hope that you will be inspired to continue playing sports and aspire to achieve in the fields open to you in your country.

training for battle

Preparing for this historic battle was not easy. But with this comes the experience of being with some of the most talented people in the sport today. My gym is in Compton, Los Angeles. Located in the adjacent South Gate, it works under the guidance of legendary coach Manny Robles.

Manny is considered one of the best in the world at his job. He has many world champions and many famous fighters who travel all over the world to train with him but I hope to become his first women’s world champion. He has an incredible attitude towards women’s boxing and sees us all as equals. be done. This is brutal at times. My life has never been easy, so naturally I have taken the hard road to prepare!

I may be undefeated in my professional career, but the concept of keeping an undefeated record is a modern thing. I never feared defeat. I don’t want it, but I’m not afraid. Losing is a big part of sports. I want to pursue greatness, but it comes with tough battles and challenges.

Inspiring others and working with Meghan Markle

I think people seem to be inspired by me because I’m not untouchable. My experience lives on. My hardships as a refugee from Mogadishu, Somalia began with boxing as a young Muslim woman struggling with her weight. I don’t want to store my wealth in a big house. Of course, this match in Saudi Arabia is ultimately a prize fight, but I could have made more money in other areas where I work. Instead, I decided to continue pursuing sports. So price is not important to me. I have already spent 80% of my time in training camp to prepare for this fight.

I want to give life purpose both through inspiration and through what I can do for others. As Muhammad Ali said, service to others is “… the rent you pay for your room on this earth.” I am trying. I had no natural athletic talent, but I have worked hard for everything I have achieved and won.

I am inspired by so many people. Because Jackie Robinson had to endure on her journey. Venus and Serena Williams, who have done so much for women of color in sports, and my hero, Somali-Canadian social activist Irwad Elman.

Ramla Ali and British Vogue editor
Ramla Ali and Edward Enninful in front row for Coach 1941 during New York Fashion Week on September 10, 2019 in New York City. Ali calls Enninful a “true visionary”.
Bennett Raglin/Getty Images

But handpicked by Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, featured in her Voices of Change issue british vogue 2019 will be remembered as one of the best moments of my life. I spoke with Duchess Megan while it was being made, and I hope she does, as I’m a fan of both her and Prince Harry’s work, but our paths still cross. not.

I recently had dinner with the editor in London. british vogue Edward Enninful and their respective husbands discuss exactly this and the issue. Edward is a true visionary in every sense of the word. The release of this issue really changed my life. He called me.

fame and future

Seeing your face on a magazine cover is a strange experience, but a good one! But I never thought of myself as famous. While looking at such magazines, I often think about what my future daughters will think, and that feeling makes me happy. Boxing careers are short, so me and her husband have been running 100 mph for a while. So no time to accept it. Over the past four or five years, I still haven’t really stopped and looked back at everything I’ve done.

2020 Olympic boxer Ramla Ali
Somalia’s Ramla Ali (red) and Romania’s Maria Claudia Nechita during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 26, 2021. Ali told Newsweek that she would like to see more Somali women competing in future Olympics.
Buda Mendez / Pool / AFP

Over the years I have learned that professional boxing is more business than sport. Luckily my husband is my manager and I consider myself really lucky to have the support of a promoter. If it was another team, I don’t think I would have continued.

My hope now is to expand my Sisters Club initiative to the United States, Africa and the Middle East with the help of my future partners. And my dream in boxing and in life is to see another Ramla Ali in 5-10 years. Watch another female boxer from Somalia win an Olympic medal in boxing.

I fought to be the first Somali boxer to compete in the 2020 Olympics, so I want to know that it was not in vain that I had to endure the sports bodies and politicians of Mogadishu.

I want to look back and see that I have made a difference in my community, my people and my family.

Ramla Ali is a Somali-born British professional boxer, model and founder of the non-profit Sisters Club. On August 20th, she will take part in Saudi Arabia’s first professional women’s boxing match as an undercard to Anthony’s Joshua and Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk fight.

All views expressed in this article are those of the author.

Edited by Jenny Howard.

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