Muhammad Ali still fighting, still winning
MUHAMMAD ALI’s sister has flatly rejected claims by a British tabloid who claimed that the former heavyweight champion may have only days to live.
May May Ali spoke to her dad on the phone on Sunday and he reported he was doing just fine. Watching the Super Bowl at home in Arizona while donning a Baltimore Ravens jersey, in an interview with The Associated Press she said
“These rumours pop up every once in a while, but there's nothing to them.”
Speaking to The Sun newspaper, Ali's younger brother Rahman (69) was quoted Sunday as saying: “My brother can’t speak — he doesn’t recognise me. He’s in a bad way. He’s very sick.....It could be months, it could be days. I don’t know if he’ll last the summer.”
He added that Ali's fourth wife Lonnie, with whom he is married 26 years, has kept him isolated from his immediate family and that „he’d divorce her if he saw what was happening.”
The news hit international headlines on Sunday evening, though it soon turned out premature and unfounded, as Ali 'The Greatest' was actually in the company of his family and enjoying the SuperBowl.
Rahman hasn't seen his brother since last summer and has had little or no contact with the family, therefore without verifying his words the press tried to put a nail in Ali's coffin, once again.
He first rose to world attention when he won gold at the Olympic light-heavyweight championship in 1960.
Four years later he would send shockwaves in the boxing world by defeating Sonny Liston in 1964 to gain the heavyweight title. Stripped of his title threee years later for his stance against the Vietnam War draft, he lost his license to box for three and a half years at the peak of his career.
He reclaimed his title in 1974 in a legendary bout with George Foreman, just three years after the Supreme Court ruled the government had no right to prevent him from fighting.
Leon Spinks defeated him in 1978 but Ali managed to regain the belt within 12 months. He was the first boxer to ever win the prestigious title three times.
His defeat to Joe Frazier in 1971 is regarded as one of the most remarkable fights in the sport's history. Ali's impressive record of 55 wins and only 5 losses ultimately led him to develop the degenrating Parkinson's disease due to blows he had received to the head during his fiery fights.
Ali retired in 1981 after failing to out-box Trevor Berbick.
TheJournal.ie recently reported on a new documentary, 'When Ali came to Ireland', which charts how a circus strongman from Killorgin in Co. Kerry, Butty Sugrue, arranged a fight in Croke Park between ‘The Greatest’ Muhammad Ali and ex-con Al ‘Blue’ Lewis in July 1972.
Ali's last visit was to Ireland was to Ennis in 2009, where he was made the first Honorary Freeman of Ennis. At the time it was believe that his great grandfather was Abe Grady who had left the town in the 1860s. A 'distant cousin' Imelda O'Grady presented Ali with framed photographs of them both, with the inscription 'Cead Míle Fáilte' at Ennis Civic Chamber. However, this claim has since been disputed by members of the Clare Genealogical Society.
Ger Madden, author of a history of the O’Grady clan called the claims “absolute, total rubbish”.
Along with local historian Sean Spellissy, Mr. Madden believes it is impossible that the legend's ancestors hailed from the Turnpike as they wouldn't have had the means to emigrate to the US.
Mr. Spellissy does however think it is possible that Ali may have links to Crusheen, where the Grady clan have stronger historical links.
His brother claims that the boxing great wants a quote from another African-American who mobilised and inspired millions engraved upon his tombstone. Ali was 26 years old and barred from boxing for not joining the army when his idol - Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King – was assassinated in 1968.
Ali once told his brother Rahman that he wished people to remember him with the words of Dr. king on his epitaph: ‘I tried to love somebody, I did try to feed the hungry. I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.’ - The Greatest.”
An emotional Rahman added He’s in God’s hands. We hope he gently passes away.”