Former boxing champion Laila Ali was at the US Open on Labor Day and was asked what tennis player would she like to get in the ring with and train to box. The answer is who many would have anticipated. If Ali had to train one tennis player to box, who would she choose? “If I had to train a tennis player to be a boxer I would pick Serena Williams because she got the (singing) ‘eye of the tiger,’” to which many laughed. Ali continued in a more serious tone. “She’s tall, she’s strong, and she’s got good food work, and I could really turn that into a powerhouse in boxing.”
Ali was on hand in a quest to create greater awareness in an effort to knock out childhood obesity as National Obesity Awareness Month began this month. Ali, who played tennis as a youth herself, talked about her involvement with the USTA. “I got involved with the USTA and helping this initiative to keep kids active through sports, fitness, and tennis because this is something I have been doing for years. I’ve been talking about why it’s an epidemic that we have childhood obesity and all these diseases from kids being inactive. And I think it’s great that the USTA wants to get kids involved in sports at a young age, make sure they have a positive experience.”
Ali played with dozens of young children on the tennis courts at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center before taking some time to speak about the similarities of boxing and tennis. “Boxing and tennis are similar in the footwork, it’s one-on-one sports, you have to be very competitive, you have to train hard, and once you get to the top, you have to stay at the top.”
While the daughter of the legendary Muhammad Ali is no longer taking on foes in the boxing ring, she has found a worthy adversary in childhood obesity. With help from the USTA, Ali now hopes to knock out childhood obesity the same way she knocked out her opponents in the ring.