There’s far more to east London’s Ramla Ali than her formidable successes
in the boxing ring: she’s determined to use her ever-increasing status to affect real change. Shannon Mahanty meets her
Can you not paint me out to be a victim?’ says Ramla Ali in her slight east London accent, with a wry smile and a playful roll of the eyes. It’s been an intense day of training, and in a dark Nike tracksuit, curled up on a black sofa, she is almost camouflaged until she suddenly springs to life, eager to discuss the myriad projects she has in the pipeline — less eager to discuss her back story. Ali has a point.
She came to the UK as a refugee fleeing war, but she is also a decorated boxer who has yet to lose a fight in her young professional career. She is the first fighter to compete for Somalia at an international level and she has successfully launched her own charity. When she’s not in the ring, Ali is an ambassador for Pantene, Coach and Cartier. She was personally picked to be on the cover of British Vogue by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and is often front row at fashion week; so yes, Ali is anything but a victim.
And yet, there is a reason people are tempted to paint her in such a light. Ali, 31, understands that her inescapable past is a powerful one; her family lived through a civil war, lost friends and family and made a perilous escape by boat to Kenya. Long before Ali had ever picked up a boxing glove, her family had fought for their survival; could that be part of the reason she has become such a successful boxer? ‘It’s definitely an immigrant thing; you’re coming to another country for a better life, you do have to fight to survive and to succeed you have to take the opportunities you’re given and really, really go for it.’
“You can create impact. You don’t need much, you just need yourself. You are completely enough”
“‘Should young girls believe that if they aren’t considered pretty by middle-aged men in publicly funded old boys clubs then they are unable to succeed in sport?”
“I’m bringing in a new audience and they have to listen to sexist bullshit? You’re asking everything of the athlete, nothing of yourself”
“Of course all lives matter, but at the moment we’re
talking about black people dying because of racism”
“People say I’m wasting my time, but if there’s a slight hope that things might change, I have to fight for iT”
Make-up by Amy Wright at Caren Agency using
Dior Backstage Collection and Dior Capture Totale Super Potent Serum. Hair by Nao at The Wall Group.
Joshua Payne. Fashion assistant: Rosie Sykes