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Punches of inspiration: Somali boxer aims to bring girls into the ring

Somali boxer Ramla Ali   -  
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Somali refugee boxer Ramla Ali has turned professional in a quest to become the country's first world champion and inspire a new generation of Muslim women to "challenge stereotypes" by taking up the sport.

The UK-based 31-year-old was aiming to be the first Somali boxer to go to an Olympics, but the delay to Tokyo 2020 caused by the coronavirus outbreak allowed her to sign a promotional deal with Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Sport last week.

"Somalia is just known for horrible things; piracy, famine, war. So to give Somalia the opportunity to be known for something other than that, I feel like is obviously amazing. And I feel like they'll be very appreciative of that as well," Ali said. 

Ali, who is managed by world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, is due to make her professional debut in October.

She was a toddler when her family fled the Somali capital Mogadishu in the early 1990s during the civil war after her elder brother was killed by a mortar at the age of 12 while playing outside.

When the family arrived in London as refugees, having lived in Nairobi in Kenya, Ali was picked on at school for being overweight.

She went to the local gym and tried a boxercise class, but did not tell her family as she thought they would disapprove of the sport for a Muslim girl.

When she won the British and English titles in 2016, Ali - who initially represented England before switching to Somalia in 2017 - told her parents she was going out for a run.

Ali, whose mother now supports her boxing, is trained by her husband Richard Moore and will compete at super-bantamweight.

She has funded her amateur boxing career by modelling and was selected by the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, to be one of 15 cover stars on the September 2019 edition of  Vogue magazine.

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