Watch CBS News

Laila Ali on father's death: "I've been sad for a long time"

Laila Ali followed her father into boxing and became a champ herself
Laila Ali: Despite sadness, happy knowing father is no longer struggling 04:21

Despite the death of her father and boxing legend, Muhammad Ali, Laila Ali is standing strong.

"Obviously I'm sad, I'm going to miss my father, but I've been sad for a long time because my father's been struggling with Parkinson's for a long time," Ali said Monday on "CBS This Morning."

Famously known as "The Greatest," the three-time world heavyweight champion boxer died Friday at the age of 74. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at age 42, three years after he retired from the ring. Ali said her father, who was known as much for his wit and poetic words as his unmatched skills in the boxing ring, hadn't been himself for a long time.

"So I'm happy knowing that he's no longer struggling, and that's what gives me comfort," Ali said.

While she said she wasn't comfortable discussing her father's final moments, she said she was happy all his children were able to be at his side when he passed on.

"My dad was not only the best fighter ever, but also such a great man, and there will never be anyone else like him," Ali said. "And I think that anywhere you go in the world, people not only recognize him but also love him because of the man that he is. Because he stood up for his beliefs. He fought for those that couldn't speak up for themselves, and he'll truly be missed by all of us."

Ali, who became a boxing champ herself, retired with an undefeated, 24-0 record -- "with 21 knockouts!" she quipped. She is now a host on the CBS Sports Network.

While Muhammad Ali was concerned over his daughter's boxing career at first, she pressed on.

"He tried to talk me out of it indirectly, but obviously I did what I wanted to do, and he knew I was going to do what I wanted to do. He had so much respect for the fact that I did what I believed in, just like he did," Ali said.

But she made sure to pave her own style and path.

"I knew in the beginning of my career ... if I start trying to be like my dad now, I'll never be able to stop," Ali explained. "So I went about my own career in my own way -- and I love my dad, I love him, but I love me, too. So I wanted to do my own thing."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.