He was G.O.A.T. The greatest of all time. But heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali was also a beloved father.
Daughter Laila Ali was in Fort Lauderdale on Monday at the 54th Annual World Boxing Council Convention at the Diplomat Hotel to pay homage to the legendary fighter, who died in June after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
We caught up with Ali, who is a boxer in her own right, fighting professionally (undefeated) from 1999 until her retirement in 2007.
Ali, 38, lives in Los Angeles and runs a self help blog, http://lailaalilifestyle.com. She is a married mom of two (husband is retired NFL player Curtis Conway) and will be a contestant on the newly launched “Celebrity Apprentice,” airing Jan. 2 on NBC.
How was the convention?
A couple of things were going on. The opening ceremony was dedicated to my father. It was nice, all the champs come out like Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis to educate fans about the WBC and how it works. I took a lot of photos with people who are excited to see you and meet you, which I don’t mind at all. There’s always going to be that connection. People love my dad. I’ve been dealing with this my whole life.
LeBron James just announced he was co-producing a documentary on your father for HBO. What did you think about that?
Over the years there have been a lot of documentaries about him; sometimes I can’t keep up. But that’s cool. I’m a fan of LeBron’s, and he’s been a great supporter [the former Miami Heat star donated $2.5 million to support the Muhammad Ali exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture]. It’s nice to hear.
So tell us about the new “Celebrity Apprentice,” the first cast without Donald Trump and Arnold Schwarzenegger at the helm.
I’d been asked to do it multiple times, and I turned it down. But when they told me it would be all new with talent like Jessica Alba, Tyra Banks and Warren Buffett, that’s what inspired me to say yes. It’s a whole different vibe this time. It’s kind of more in line with me. Arnold’s an actor. There’s a comedic side to him, and the show is very focused on innovation and technology with the beautiful backdrop of L.A.
What was your biggest challenge?
Well, all of a sudden, you’re a business executive with these hard tasks and obstacles with not enough time. You wonder how you can pull it all together and work as a team. Then there was the boardroom and eliminations all that. It could be very nerve wracking. But I came to win. There can be only one winner.
How was your first Thanksgiving without your father?
This year was different, but amazing. I’m the cook, so my mornings start early. Next fall I am coming out with a cookbook and I actually tested out some recipes on my friends and family. There’s one recipe I dedicate to my dad called the Ali Burger. I can’t tell you what’s in it, but it’s the greatest [laughs]. It’s the way he liked it.
What are your holiday plans?
I’ve got two small kids, 5 and 8, so it’s all about them. It’s been very busy. So we are headed upstate to the snow for some good, quality family time. I really want to tone it down a bit. Thank God I can kind of make my own schedule.
Any tips to keep holiday pounds at bay?
Yes: Push back from the table! [Laughs]. If only it were that easy. I would say my advice is, before you go to an event, nibble on something beforehand so you won’t be as tempted. Of course, enjoy yourself. But it’s too easy to put on a bunch of weight quickly from eating some of the stuff that isn’t good for you.
What about working off the calories?
I don’t kill myself. If I’m tired and don’t feel like working out, I take it easy. I’m my own coach. You have to know yourself. If you’re the type of person who takes three days off from exercising and it turns into three months, then you’ll start a downfall. You have to know your body.