Featherweight boxer and SOAS alumna Ramla Ali from Bethnal Green only took on her first professional fight in November 2020. Now, she is in Tokyo, representing Somalia at the Olympic games.
Ramla, who obtained a first-class law degree at SOAS, is the first female Muslim to become British Boxing Champion – and is now setting her sights on an Olympic medal. She’s also making history, as the first ever woman from her country to compete in boxing at the Olympics.
Speaking to the BBC, Ramla explained:
“Somalis are mainly known for horrible things – piracy, famine, war – so to give Somalia the opportunity to be known for something other than that would obviously be amazing and I feel they would be very appreciative as well.”
Somali- born Ramla fled to the UK via Kenya and Dubai after her brother was killed, aged 12, in the Somali civil war. From a refugee background, initially hiding her boxing training from her Muslim parents, but Ramla quickly rose up the ranks in the amateur leagues she was competing in.
In 2019 she was chosen as one of 15 all-female ‘forces of change’ who appeared on the cover of September’s Vogue which guest-edited by the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, and she has been recently named as one of the Olympic game-changers to watch this summer.
But Ramla’s achievements don’t stop there. She’s also the founder of Sisters Club, which gives self defence lessons to women, and on top of that has committed to give 25% of her takings as a boxing professional to Black Lives Matter charities. To add another string to her bow, Ramla is also a model, starring most recently in Coach’s campaign with Paris Hilton, Michael B Jordon and J Lo.
Ramla has even managed to fit in time to write a novel, Not Without A Fight: Ten Steps to Becoming Your Own Champion, dubbed a self help style book based on ten of the most important fights in her life. The book comes out in September 2021, and is available to pre-order now.
Ramla Ali is competing today, 26 July