Five lessons for life from boxing superstar, Ramla Ali
As the queen of the ring prepares to make history in the Middle East, allow us to inspire you to do the same
Saturday 20 August 2022 By Soho House
This weekend Ramla Ali – alongside her opponent – will become the first female boxer to fight in Saudi Arabia. When she goes head-to-head with Crystal Garcia Nova of the Dominican Republic in the first woman-on-woman boxing match to be held in the historically conservative Islamic nation, it will be a milestone moment – not only for her, but for Muslim women around the world.
Being a history maker isn’t something new to Ali. The British-Somali Olympian, model and UNICEF ambassador has been reshaping the world of sports since 2016, when she simultaneously held the top titles for both the England Boxing Elite National Championships and Great British Champions. She’s been collecting accolades (and trophies) ever since, with no signs of slowing down.
Ali has long been an advocate for women in sport, campaigning to make the world more inclusive for Muslims. Last year, she put her money where her mouth is with the launch of Sisters Club, an all-women boxing gym. Her autobiography, Not Without a Fight: Ten Steps to Becoming Your Own Champion, encourages a new generation of underrepresented voices to bet on themselves. It candidly details Ali’s personal journey from her childhood in Somalia, from which she had to flee when civil war broke out in the early 1990s, to relocating to the UK as a refugee.
At 32, she’s the first to admit her life has been far from the ordinary – with endless ‘firsts’ along the way. She knows a thing or two about how to put up a good fight, both in and outside of the ring.
Here are five lessons to learn from this barrier-breaking boxing superstar, with quotes taken from her book.
1 | Resilience is key
‘Finding myself with no club taught me resilience and resourcefulness. I didn’t need a boxing gym; I could train in my normal gym, and I certainly didn’t need my old coach. I knew enough about training, and Richard [her current coach and husband] stepped up too. If I can train for a championship fight without any of the normal resources, then I promise you can work to make your goals a reality – without the tools you think you need.’
2 | Accept failure
‘We shouldn’t fear failure; failure is what makes us strong. We have to be adaptable in life and learn to accept setbacks as part of the course. In my first amateur fight it was clear I was the underdog with a high chance of losing; however I still went for it. I didn’t let the fear of losing or focusing on a negative outcome stop me from getting in the ring. You have to be louder than the voice telling you that you can’t.’
3| Lean into your community
‘Being part of a group can be such a special feeling. I’ve grown up belonging to a close-knit Somali community, and through boxing, I’ve always loved having other fighters around me. Finding your community is as simple as knowing that there are other people out there who share your values and have similar goals. Even strangers can be part of the same community, and to me that’s the strongest reminder that we are never alone.’
4 | Avoid comparison
I’m not going to say stop comparing yourself to others, because if I’m honest, I still do it and sometimes we just can’t help it. That said, you will never be the person you compare yourself to, and they will never be you. We are unique, moving through the world at different paces with different goals and priorities. It’s fine to look at what other people are doing, but at the end of the day, you’re the only one making decisions about your own life, so don’t get so wrapped up in watching others that you forget to think about yourself.
5| Listen and learn
‘Accepting advice and criticism from others is part of the process of working hard. Surround yourself with people who want to uplift you. We might not always agree with them, but if they have your best interests at heart, it’s for your benefit, not betrayal.’
For some motivation alongside your inspiration, listen to Ali's personal dressing-room playlist, shared exclusively with Soho House here.