Muhammad Ali: Till Death Do Us Part

By Robert Ecksel on February 3, 2013
Muhammad Ali: Till Death Do Us Part
If God is an attorney, as Rahman Ali says, we had all better lawyer up for Judgment Day.

“He may be dying, but he’ll live on. You know the word ‘infinite’? That’s Ali, he’s infinite. His name will last forever…”

“All of us boxing people realize evening is here and night will soon befall us.”—Muhammad Ali

He has been sick forever, but no man seems more alive than Muhammad Ali.

Rumor sometimes seems like boxing’s coin of the realm, yet no matter how counterfeit needs to be treated as such. Distressing news, if it is indeed news, has come to us via Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun, the biggest circulation newspaper in the UK..

Muhammad Ali’s brother, Rahman, recently told The Sun that Ali is on death’s doorstep and that his last days, rather than being a peaceful passage from this realm to the next, have been poisoned by his wife Lonnie.

Family business is family business and things are never as they appear, so there may or may not be some truth to the allegation that a feud fueled by Lonnie is tearing the family apart.

Rahman said Ali would be “mad as hell” if he knew what was going on, and that “The worst thing to happen is not the illness, but his wife.”

No one disputes Lonnie’s loyalty to Muhammad, not even Rahman Ali. They have been married for 26 years and she has sacrificed her life for her husband’s welfare. It may be that she questions Rahman’s motives, as do we all, just as she has questioned the motives of others who have used Ali to further their own objectives. But what dedicated spouse under the circumstances would not?

During his interview Rahman sobbed that he would rather his brother died to escape his suffering. “My brother can’t speak,” he said. “He doesn’t recognize 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’s in God’s hands. We hope he gently passes away.

“He told me before he got really bad that he’s in no pain. He grabbed my arm and whispered, ‘Rah, I’ve achieved everything I’ve ever wanted to accomplish. Don’t cry for me, I’m in no pain.’ It’s best he goes now. The longer he goes on, so does his suffering and misery.

“He’s going to heaven, there’s no doubt. If his funeral was tomorrow, all the statesmen of the world would turn up. He touched everyone from the rich to the poor. I love my brother over anybody. Of all the famous people who ever lived, he’s the best. Everyone knows Muhammad Ali. He’s up there with Jesus Christ.”

There are people, Christians and non-Christians alike, who might not agree with Rahman’s assessment. But that’s neither here nor there. The depth of feeling for his brother seems genuine, as does the depth of feeling we all hold for Ali.

“We’ve all been pushed out,” continued Rahman. “The only time I get to see him is at public events. She and her family are draining him. It’s so sad. There’s nothing I can do, they’ve blocked us all off.

“Before he got sick he told me, ‘Rahman, I’ve set up a trust fund for you after I die, you get the money.’ But she’s put a stop to it. If he knew what was happening and where I’m living now,” a shabby apartment in Louisville, “he’d be as mad as hell, so angry. He’d divorce her. If he saw what was happening with his children, he’d go crazy.”

Ali has nine children, none of them with Lonnie who is his fourth wife. We can speculate all we want, but we can no sooner uncover her motives than we can uncover the truth.

“I spoke to Muhammad Ali Jr. last week, as he was concerned about his dad. They’ve all tried to get in contact with him. She’ll put him on the phone sometimes, but he can only breathe on the line.

“I know him better than anyone. I can sense he’s unhappy. I can see it in his eyes. I love him, but she stops him from loving anyone. This is the saddest thing in my life. I’m going to let God take care of it—he’s the best attorney anyone can have.”

If God is an attorney, we had all better lawyer up for Judgment Day.

“I haven’t got much money,” Rahman said, “and I’m on disability benefits. I’ve had many strokes, twenty in all, and it’s affected my brain and short-term memory. The doctor told me I’m lucky to be alive—I should be dead. Every day is a blessing to me.

“We’ve barely got enough to pay our bills. The rent is $512 a month, and if we’re lucky, we may have $150 left after bills. If my brother had all his faculties, he’d look after me. I’d be living in a mansion.”

Those who live in apartments and dream of living in mansions are the people we look at askance. Perhaps Ali said what Rahman said he said, even though talking is next to impossible. Perhaps Lonnie has frozen out the rest of the family. Perhaps Ali is on the verge of death. There’s no way to know for sure.

“When he was six he’d tell me he was going to be world champion. He said he was going to be famous, was going to change the world, said he’d look after my mom and dad. And everything he said, he did. He achieved all his dreams.

“How the hell did he know at six that he was going to do all this? Only him and the Holy Spirit knows. He may be dying, but he’ll live on. You know the word ‘infinite’? That’s Ali, he’s infinite. His name will last forever.”

No doubt The Sun has had an obit in the can for years, as has every other major news outlet. Should Boxing.com do the same? Or is it unseemly to bury a man alive?

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

When We Were Kings Full / HD / Muhammad Ali Documentary / 1996



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  1. Rasheeda 08:08am, 02/22/2013

    I also believe he would be mad if he knew. Blood is very important to him and he just be wondering where his brother is. He sure would not want him living in squalor on disability. He was friends with my parents and I remember many dinners at his home. Shame on Lonnie that is her brother in law and she’s got access to more money than she’ll ever be able to spend. How greedy. Thank God there is a higher authority…hope he made an airtight will while he still had control of his mind.

  2. nicolas 04:33pm, 02/07/2013

    RAYMACK: Thank you for your response. Interesting point you make about his behavior to white opponents vs black opponents. I remember how he praised Joe Bugner, jokingly said before there second fight, he’s handsome and intelligent, I’m going to make him ugly and illiterate. Also he said Bugner would be heavyweight champion one day. Henry Cooper said that after either there first or second fight, Ali came to his dressing room and apologized and felt bad about the cut he had inflicted on him. He also praised Chuvalo after the title fight in Toronto, saying Chuvalo was the toughest guy he had faced. From what I know of Frazier, he had helped Ali to get his license, and felt that Ali turned on him, making him a pariah in the black community. Though he seemed to get along with him very well at certain functions, most notably what I saw on youtube, a British version of ‘This is your life’, earlier on the Dick Cavett show, when they lifted Dick with him in his chair, and that documentary back in the 80’s, ‘Great champs or something, with them eating together. I highly recommend if you haven’t seen the documentary “Facing Ali’, to see it. It is all so more poignant that Frazier, Lyle, and Cooper have left us, as they are being interviewed in this documentary.

  3. raymack 10:09am, 02/06/2013

    Nicolas, I am 100% a Joe Frazier man. I must have met him at least 30 times. The 1st time being in 1968, the last time in the middle in the middle 90’s

    Contrary to the way the media portrayed Joe he was not an angry man in public bemoaning Ali. Joe was a charismatic person with a great smile. And fun to be around. And with the exception of Ali he always spoke well of his opponents.

    What is interesting about Ali he only showed his cruelty on black opponents, Frazier , Patterson, Terrell… He gave all his white opponents a pass. That sounds premeditated. Probably on orders from the muslim leaders. That is the only reason Ali ducked the draft the muslim leaders told him to do so. And Ali was afraid of ending up like Malcom X if he did not follow orders.

    Back to Joe. My favorite memory of Joe was when he would say, “Look at him (Ali) and look at me, now you tell me who won those 3 fights.

    Regarding Ali’s cruelty I believe the greatest gift man has is forgiveness. And like Ali I have done things when I was younger and if given the opportunity now I would never have done them. With that being said i cannot honestly say if Ali would repeat his behavior given the opportunity. The man was a narcissist with a low IQ. But I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

    In fairness to Ali I think it is safe to say that he has paid for his sins of the past. Whether Joe forgave him or not is his right and choice.

    Joe had good health up until about 10 years ago then he aged overnight, the booze, diabetes, car accidents they all took there toll on him. But he was still Smokin’ Joe Frazier he never complained. He just rolled with the punches.

    Sadly, Joe died broke. You know who paid foris funeral? Ali, nope. Don King nope, Foreman, nope. Oscar De La Hoya. Oscar also paid for Camacho’s funeral too

  4. Koolz 09:53am, 02/05/2013

    You believe the paper ?  I suppose you believe tv too, and the People in Power?

    Rahman is fool of it Ali is fine and he was watching the foot ball game in Phoenix you can take that to the SUN!

  5. nicolas 10:04pm, 02/04/2013

    This article reminds me the same of the documentary on Sugar Ray Robinson by HBO. His son I believe the one who said his last wife basically kept him on a leash, surprising for a man who cheated was not very faithful to his previous wife according to that documentary, and could be also violent about it (quite different from the portrayal of him by the media at one time). I have also known many others, not so famous as Ali or Robinson who may have similar stories just like these. What we have here however is not uncommon, when someone famous is rumored to be knocking on heavens door, often there are stories of famous people like this. I remember seeing sickening pictures of an ill Gregory Peck and Charles Bronson not long before they passed away. I understand RAYMACKS indignation, though I can’t feel the same way. Mainly because during Ali’s lifetime, he did ridicule and sometimes as in the case of Joe Frazier do very hurtful things. When you go after the limelight like Ali did, sometimes it will come back to bite you. At the same time, I will never forget his generosity with Howard Cossell on speaking so highly of Rocky Mariciano, and it was because of Ali, that unlike Joe Louis, who allowed the black man to be world heavyweight champion, Ali also allowed the black man to be challenger. five of his first 9 title defenses were against black fighters. Even Frazier, with his 9 successful title defenses (counting the pre Ellis fight) only three were against black fighters, and three of them had already belts of some kind, Williams and Foley had never gotten the opportunity before to fight for a title.

  6. the thresher 09:10pm, 02/04/2013

    Holy moley!

  7. Raymack 04:52pm, 02/04/2013

    You should be ashaned of yourself, invading Ali’s private life. Can’t you let the man and his family deal with family matters in private? Especially when it deals with life and death. His finaces are nobody’s business except Ali and his family. Unless there is foul play involved. You showed no indication of foul play

    Your pitful reasoning for writing the story because, “The Sun” already has aleady exposesd it, is a poor excuse. Because, writers of “The Sun” crawl on their belly and exposes family matters, it’s OK for you do to do the same? You should be ashamed of yourself for gossip monerging. And remove the slander.

    Can’t you let Ali suffer in peace? Instead of jumping on the bandwagon and ripping the family of a defenseless man. Get off your belly and behave like a human being

  8. peter 06:49pm, 02/03/2013

    When the shoe finally drops on Ali, the story will continue…

  9. Kdub 11:32am, 02/03/2013

    Strange indeed, however we have been down this road before.  That quote “money is the root of all evil” would seem appropriate. I’ll send prayers to Ali and his family. Right now no one knows for sure, but Ali’s legacy will not confound the truth, it will clarify it.

  10. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo (aka) Gimpel 10:54am, 02/03/2013

    Robert Ecksel-“we had all better lawyer up for Judgement Day”....in Texas they used to say “if you’re guilty get Percy”....Percy Foreman the renowned defense attorney that is. Percy has long since stood before that final arbiter himself… looks like the rest of us are at the mercy of the court.

  11. Lee 08:43am, 02/03/2013

    The Sun. That says it all. Hardly an organ of tact, sensitivity or sobriety-let alone journalistic integrity.

  12. the thresher 08:07am, 02/03/2013

    What the hell;?

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