One of the first impressions of Ramla Ali is her quiet confidence and warm personality. Her petite frame defies the conventional perception of a boxer. Ordinarily, you would not think she’s been competing across the country for the past 10 years but Ramla Ali, whose just been endorsed by sporting giants Nike, is fighting her way to the top as the UK’s first female boxer from Somalia. Winner of the 2016 National Title in her weight, she defeated her opponents in the GB championships the same year. Her ultimate goal is to become the first boxer to compete for Somalia and sure enough, she’s fast on her way to represent her homeland with a strong desire to compete in the 2020 Olympics.
Ramla’s story is an inspiration for all. As a child refugee, her narrative is shaped by periods of challenges and a tragic event which ultimately gave her the inner strength to navigate her way through life: “I actually don’t know my birthday, they didn’t record it when I was born in Somalia. We left when my brother was killed in the civil war and we settled in London.” Yet Ramla left one trauma only to experience another when she attended school. She was bullied and ostracised for being ‘fat’ (we know, hard to believe!) She eventually rose above the challenges and got into boxing as an outlet to channel the hurt and isolation she felt by training.
I got into boxing pretty young. I was 12 and attending Plushet Secondary School in London. I used to be bullied for my weight. I went to an all girls school and everything was based on appearance and I didn’t fit in. My mum got me a pass at East Ham leisure centre and I started going to classes and from there I stumbled into a boxercise class. Once a week wasn’t enough for me as I loved it so much. I searched for more classes elsewhere and that’s how I got into boxing
It’s clear to see boxing empowered Ramla and increased her confidence, enabling her to make many friends which she couldn’t do at school: “There’s no judgement in boxing. I have made friends for life which is amazing.” Yet her journey into this sport was initially met with dismay. Ramla found herself hiding her skills and training from her family, often asking her brother to ‘cover’ for her when she went out to compete. The pressure must have been overwhelming, but for someone whose passion and conviction lies in this sport, she never gave up practicing even when at times she wanted to. It was an interview that caught the attention of her Uncle that changed the course of acceptance for her. In the interview her Uncle saw how courageous and brilliant she was, which moved him to speak to her mother to accept her boxing career
Now, my mum is proud of me! I never told my mum about competing before, but this time I told my mum I was competing in Denmark. She actually called me in excitement asking ‘how did it go? I’ve been praying all night for you to win and not get hurt,’ It’s great to know she’s rooting for me.
Motivated by the support she receives from the public; from mothers and girls writing in declaring how proud they are of her as an empowered Somali woman, the wider community have been a source of inspiration for Ramla: “One particular message was from a mother who watched me in an interview and she was so inspired that she encouraged her daughter to take up boxing. I love that. Inspiring a little girl and paving the way for people who come from traditionally conservative backgrounds makes me feel great.”
Indeed as a brand ambassador for Nike, the future is looking bright for this rising star.