Laila Ali Celebrates Women’s Boxing’s Olympic Debut: ‘I’m Glad Women Finally Have the Opportunity’

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Laila Ali never got to compete in the Olympic Games, but this week’s London games will include women’s boxing for the first time, and Ali will be providing color commentary.

“I’m super excited about it,” she told reporters. “There was no reason for it not to be a part of the Olympics and I’m glad that women are finally getting the opportunity, because these young girls who have been fighting as amateurs have been training so hard and that is their dream to be successful and do it on a world level.”

The retired middleweight won 24 fights, 21 by knockout, and is psyched about her new challenge on NBC’s Stars Earn Stripes, premiering September 9.

What challenges does Ali face on the reality show?

The reality competition will team celebrity athletes like Ali, skier Picabo Street and ex-footballer Terry Crews with real-life military commandos to undergo boot camp training and compete in squads.

“I’m shooting real live ammo for the first time,” smiled Ali, 34. “You don’t know exactly what it is that you’re gonna be doing when you go into it but you’re going to have to make your mind up that you’re willing to face whatever it is that comes up.”

When she wasn’t dodging live bullets, Ali spent some time with the Olympic boxing team, advising the young women about the pressure that comes with the world’s biggest spotlight.

“I told them, ‘Hey just do what you do,’” said Ali. “If there’s anyone who can tell them that, it’s me because I went into my first professional fight being Muhammad Ali’s daughter. You can imagine how much pressure would have been on me if I had to worry about what everyone else was thinking.”

For the daughter of the legendary champ, losing was not an option. “I own that ring,” she declared. “That’s something that is just within me probably because of who my dad is.”

The key to winning, as any champ will tell you, an overwhelming need not just to defeat but severely injure your opponent.

“I want to hurt somebody,” Ali deadpanned. “Fighting is brutal. There’s not much to say about it. I don’t apologize for it. It is what it is.”

The 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony airs Friday at 7:30PM on NBC.

Are you surprised women’s boxing is just now joining the Olympics? Tell us in the comments section below.

– Jordan Riefe

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