Outside the Ring: Lonnie and Muhammad Ali

By Jill Diamond on September 11, 2014
Outside the Ring: Lonnie and Muhammad Ali
“Sometimes burdens make us realize we are human and need the help of a higher power.”

“He never complains and has such a positive attitude about life, the human condition, other people and our ultimate reward. Muhammad always rises above…”

Sports and Philanthropy: A series of articles dedicated to those who’ve given their all and still give more. Each article will feature a different community champion; no belts, no medals, no ratings… just good people passing it on.

It’s said that “behind every great man there’s a woman.” So how do you classify the woman who stands beside the man considered Greatest of All Time? A man, who years after leaving the ring, remains the most recognizable figure in boxing, perhaps in the world? His legacy, as one of the finest athletes in history, is only rivaled by his outspoken activism to an unpopular cause; a commitment that would eventually rob him of his status, his youthful agility, and his world title. Muhammad Ali’s life story—facets, rumors, truths—continues to be a rich broth generating an embarrassment of books and biopics. His youthful antics, razor-sharp word play, and incredible talent linger on as the inspiration for those who aspire to his throne. But not even champions are immune from the arbitrary tricks of fate, the consequences of their choices, the unconscionable devastation of illness. Sometimes, even the Greatest of All Time needs help. And so, we watched with relief, as this bitter turn of events perpetrated on one of the brightest stars of our times turned into a compelling love story. That is what happened when Muhammad Ali married the young, vivacious Yolanda (Lonnie) Williams. Despite the vast difference in their ages, Lonnie Ali has never been a silent partner. She has chosen the spotlight in order to give voice to a man who can no longer do that for himself. Her continuing contribution to her husband’s values and quality of life, a life influenced by 33 years of illness, is beyond reproach. She knowingly chose this path and accepts all the ramifications; not just the accolades, but the criticism from those who question her position and power. And she does this with great dignity. It is through her that he remains a potent, philanthropic force. If somewhere in the dictionary Muhammad Ali’s name is listed under Champion, then so is hers. She is, after all, the champion’s champion; and I am privileged to offer this intimate interview with the wife of The Greatest, a great woman herself, Yolanda Lonnie Ali.

The Greatest! After all these years, why is Muhammad still thought of this way?

Muhammad is still thought of as “The Greatest” because of what he represents to so many people around the world. Simply put, it’s humanity toward others that makes him the greatest in the hearts and minds of many.

Will you share a proud moment?

One very proud moment for me was when then Secretary General of the U.N., Kofi Annan, made Muhammad a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 1998.

A disappointing one?

It’s hard to think about disappointments because I try to not hold on to negative thoughts or energy. But I was somewhat disappointed when Muhammad wasn’t named ESPN’s Athlete of the Century in 1999.  Muhammad was third but I thought he should have been number one. 

Everyone wants to touch greatness. How do you know who your real friends are?

Truthfully, you don’t know who your true friends are and most likely never will until you reach the end of your life. People change over time. Attitudes change, perceptions change…we all change. I guess I can only count who my friends are today but not who they will be tomorrow. Nonetheless, I only have a few close friends but many more acquaintances.

Despite the day-to-day difficulties, you’ve used his, and now your celebrity to support many causes. Why do you do this?

It’s funny that this question is asked because I remember one of Muhammad’s agents asking me once why Muhammad and I couldn’t just pick one cause to support instead of 20 or 30 causes. There is no short answer to this question but if I were to try and condense it to a single sentence it would be because Muhammad feels his celebrity can help millions and he intends to help as many people and righteous causes and charities as he can before he leaves this earth.

Also, in our religion, Islam, it teaches we all should be in a race to do good and God will judge you by your good intentions and deeds. Knowing that none of us this leave this world perfect, those good deeds will hopefully extend to us a measure of mercy for the sins we have committed in our lives.

Today, however, we do only focus on few causes, the Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Center in Phoenix, Arizona, Parkinson’s research, the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, educational initiatives and causes and various community soup kitchens and pantries.

How intrinsic is a healthy partnership to success?

A healthy partnership is essential to the success of the union as well as the success of individuals in that partnership.

Do you consider yourself an inadvertent role model for others facing challenges? If so, does this drive you or weigh you down?

I’m like Muhammad is this regard, I don’t live my life every day thinking that I’m someone’s role model or what I do today will impact anyone but me and those in my immediate family or circle of friends. But again, when you are placed on that “stage,” whether it be local, national or global, your words, actions and life become either an inspiration or motivation for others. And that can be inspiration and motivation for good or bad. If what I do inspires others in a good way, I’m happy for that. Does it weigh me down? No. I do have an active consciousness at all times that I represent my husband in everything I do, especially now, but I don’t consider it a burden.

In public view, amidst controversy and numerous physical and transitions, you’ve stayed above it all. How do you do this?

By ignoring most if not all of it. I’m not one to nurture negative thoughts or energy, so I move on.

What inspires you?

My number one inspiration is my faith in God. He has never let me down. Next would be my husband. He is an absolute trooper about everything. He never complains and has such a positive attitude about life, the human condition, other people and our ultimate reward. Muhammad always rises above.

I also derive inspiration from those who have overcome adversity and rise to meet the challenge or take advantage of the opportunities presented.

For instance, my latest inspiration has come from this year’s U.S. Little League Champions, Jackie Robinson West, a team from Chicago’s south side. These kids come from very humble surroundings and have not always enjoyed widespread community support. Many felt that the team would never make it out of the regionals. But through determination, persistence, relentless practices to improve and a desire to be the best, these kids did it. They became the 2014 U.S. Little League Champions. After watching them, I said to myself, “If they can do it, I can do it.” And by doing it, I mean anything that I think I can’t do. You never know where your inspiration will come from.

What do you feel your most important contribution to the union is?

A true passion and love for Muhammad and everything he stands for, willingness to be his foundation and his rock, my mothering instincts and perhaps the business practices and principles I have learned.

Please talk about the organizations you support.

Celebrity Fight Night (CFN) is probably the biggest annual charitable event in the Phoenix community. Supported by many local Phoenix area residents, it also draws support from a large number of philanthropic minded individuals around the world, included including many wonderful and talented celebrities. One of CFN’s biggest supporters was the late Robin Williams. CFN provides almost 100% of the annual budget for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center (MAPC) at Barrow’s Neurological Institute in Phoenix. Through the support of many generous donors, The Ali Parkinson’s Center has become a top rated treatment facility for those with Parkinson’s disease and other movement related disorders. CFN is one of the two events each year that Muhammad and I are committed to. The other is the Muhammad Ali Center Humanitarian Awards which is held at the end of September in Louisville, Kentucky, the birth place of Muhammad and me.

Because we have all witnessed the impact of Parkinson’s disease on Muhammad and others like Michael J. Fox, the public has become more aware of how devastating this disease can be on the life of the patient and their families. Due to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, the NIH and other research organizations, Parkinson’s research has moved forward by leaps over the past twenty years. We remain hopeful that new treatment protocols, along with new formulations in the pharmaceutical industry as well as new innovative surgical techniques, will one day cause for Parkinson’s to be arrested at the time of diagnosis or at least provide for responsive treatments that will enable PD specialist and clinicians to slow down the disease’s progression and cumulative negative impact on the individual patient.

(For more information on the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center, visit www.thebarrow.org and on the left of the web page click on Neurological Services and then again on the left, click on Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center.)

What can others, who are not in your position, do to contribute?

If people are in a position to contribute financially, it’s always welcomed but I believe it’s more important to help people get through their lives and lighten the burden of the daily challenges they face living with a diseases or illness. Caregivers are faced with the enormous responsibility of caring for a person’s entire being. That can be overwhelming for the caregiver and the patient. Whatever a person can do to alleviate some of the stress and burden of that responsibility is essential for the health and well-being of both the caregiver and the person they are caring for. There are many opportunities to help our loved ones, friends or neighbors who are in need. Even the smallest gesture on our part can be huge for the person for whom it is intended to help.

How important is legacy to Muhammad?

Aside from my husband and our family’s health and well-being, Muhammad’s legacy is what gets most of my attention and energy. Muhammad’s legacy is not just for me and his children and grandchildren, it’s a legacy for the world. The footprints he leaves are large and his life is and has been a multi-textured tapestry that is rich in love, wisdom, life lessons and human kindness. God gives us gifts in life and I firmly believe Muhammad is a gift to this world. To let his legacy be lost would almost be sinful. There are so many life lessons that can be learned through his example. Remember the book THE SECRET by Rhonda Byrne, Muhammad knew and mastered “The Secret” a long time ago.

Muhammad’s legacy is not just about his life as a boxer; it’s more about courage, perseverance, respect, confidence, sacrifice, focus, determination, conviction, actively caring for others, a belief in God and self and the list goes on.

Muhammad has been fortunate during his lifetime to have his legacy supported, preserved and shared through the establishment of the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky. The Center’s mission includes promoting Muhammad’s ideals on respect, hope and understanding.  Like Muhammad, The Ali Center is a global institution and is guided by Muhammad’s six core principles. It has interactive exhibits, offers educational programming and special events to inspire people to pursue greatness in their own lives, communities and countries.  To learn more about Muhammad’s legacy and the Muhammad Ali Center visit www.alicenter.org.

Citing Muhammad’s condition, do you think that we get stronger because, or despite?

I do believe that I have gotten stronger despite the challenges of being a care partner and care giver. I’m one who believes that God never gives you a burden to bear that you can’t bear. It might get difficult at times but that’s how inner strength is developed. Also, there is wisdom to be gained in the struggle that we would not acquire otherwise. And sometimes burdens make us realize we are human and need the help of a higher power.

Had things been different, do you think you would still be determined to help others? If so, why?

Absolutely. Perhaps, not in the way I am able to now, but helping others has always been a part of who I am. It’s the way I was raised.

You are both authentic voices. Given the enormous pressures, how do you maintain?

It’s not easy. I have to force myself to focus sometimes on what is important and leave the rest alone.  I constantly have to find time for me which is difficult to do most of the time. I’m one who really needs head time to think and ponder. Given all that surrounds me, it’s challenging to disconnect and allow myself that time.

How would you like to be remembered?

As a loyal wife and mother who tried to contribute to and preserve her husband’s legacy to the world…and hopefully left this world a little better than she found it.

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  1. nicolas 08:37pm, 12/30/2014

    It was amazing to see Ali’s grandsons, you would have never thought that a man who had once spoke up against mixed marriages would have a grand son who looked like they do. It was very ironic, I believe one of his daughters who lives in Las Vegas is married to a caucasian gentleman. There was a British commentator who interviewed Ali many years ago when he was talking how the races should not mix, and that commentator had perhaps the greatest response to Ali, on how sad his view of the world was. Ali I think is a changed man, not just physically, but in thoughts I think as well. On a sad note, it appears that some of his children and relatives don’t get to see him, one being a Muhammad Ali Jr in Chicago, who is to my understanding poor. Some have accused his wife Lonnie of this, I don’t know. But it does remind me about Sugar Ray Robinson, how one of his children commented late in Ray’s life how it was ironic that his wife controlled him, when he had really been a pretty terrible husband and father during his boxing years. Though I do think that his present wife has done quite a lot of good for him.

  2. John Wilkinson 07:48pm, 09/22/2014

    Looking here again (won’t let “spell checker” bother me this time!). Have a chance this time to read all comments. I like it when PERSONS come with better/ & developed thought. & that’s what I see here. OH NO DOUBT, ALI IS BUT FLESH & BONES. But…..his life, he lived his life as a GIANT, of course. He deserves the praise that is heaped on him, I THINK! Robert Ecksel the writer SAYS IT WELL [RK, Kent Appel of the Jerry Quarry Foundation &/& Chris Gunzz [Fb] are two fellow boxing writer/ FRIENDSHIPS of mine. Chris near me, from Hartford, Ct. is “new”/ & dynamic!]. *Adrien Broner “tiresome!” :  ) HAS MOST RECENT FIGHT he was “smart”. We’ll see if he breaks out of his “hood/prison style pants down wear” mentality he brings. ON ANY PERSON THAT SUCH IS, WELL, “TIRESOME”. If he can hook up w/ the better “life coach”/MIGHT bring his person, up. Clarence George: Ali greatest or not at Hvy-wt. It’s easy to rate him “1ST”. Would he beat Joe Louis? Remember now, “Athletes _______________” (improve. Kind of like the automobile industry). Personally, I think that Holyfield vs Joe Louis Holy ~wins~ but, if you use criteria for RATING then it could paint a different picture. IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO REALLY KNOW! Whom would you RATE above him? A.T., no….AT LEAST (according to vast majority of the experts) SRR + Henry Armstrong rated higher! I have Ali 1ST at HVY-wt.
      “Society” has changed. Boxing doesn’t generate the same now Socially as past era’s. JOE LOUIS ~probably~ more a colossal “socially” during his *live time line, than Muhammad Ali.
      Pure up & up boxing….remember, Joe came very close to losing the championship against Billy Conn. LightHVY-wt.
      I am purely about BOXING on the SPORTS FRONT! I *enjoy to RATE fighters and to look at others RATINGS. A good “game” w/ boxing is to select fighters and RATE them in their small “clips”. One nice selection I have there (that, I had brought to the STREET/ w/ print production house-to-house) picks the following three HVY-wts. KEN NORTON, RON LYLE, ERNIE SHAVERS [only Shavers yet LIVING]. I break this down as the “difficult” being between SHAVERS & NORTON. I place them Ken Norton 1ST Shavers 2ND w/Lyle 3RD.
      Joe Namath in my minds eye is “forever great” & I love FOOTBALL greater than BOXING if one is a “player” (boxing a much greater FAN SPORT!). 50 % completion isn’t “top notch?” I’m myself unqualified to be knowing, there!
      Clarence, you are from CT? Note you mention Greenwich. I am in New Britain/ & Newington [Nb “the PITS”. Newington is “pretty nice!”][Nb is “pure stupidity” as a TOWN. “No brains” here what-so-ever. SHAME!] I was in College with a Pecora from Greenwich. [I didn’t really “know” her, Liz. But, I knew about her]
      I’m a former boxer w/ all 53 w 25 l 27 d 1 Ko’s/ (Rsc) 11 amateur 40 & pro 13 (=53) losses/“stopped” 3 (amateur) 3 (pro) ARMY V Corp champ. FOUNDED boxing at Central Ct. State Univ. 1980 - 93.

  3. nicolas 12:15pm, 09/22/2014

    CLARENCE AND ERIC: regarding Joe Namath, I most certainly would not put him as one of the greatest athletes of the 20’th century. However, if any football player was responsible for carrying Pro football past Baseball in popularity in the US, I think it was Joe Namath, and therefore I would consider him the most important football player of he 20th century. It was of course his personality, being in New York City and given the name Broadway Joe. He also was one of the first athletes, and perhaps the first that I can think of who told the then NFL Philadelphia Eagles, basically ‘take this contract and stuff it’ as he was going to get better pay as a rookie from the New York Jets, something it seems to me unheard of until then. Who can also forget, though he didn’t really have a great game in that win over Balitimore 16-7, but his comment before the game “I guarantee it”, when before they were some 30 point or so underdogs.

  4. John Wilkinson 02:40am, 09/16/2014

    The comments here by 1 commentator.  The entire world is having problems…so, don’t “expect” that REGIONS are “squeaky clean” in what they could practice! LOOK AT WHAT IS HAPPENING in the. ” Western” world-at-large! Some “denominations” now are in support of “matters” that could only possibly be ANTI SOCIAL OR RELIGIOUS PROGRESS. [I’m specifically talking, “Gay marriage”/PLACED by “communistic” rule presently]

  5. nicolas 09:35pm, 09/13/2014

    Her comment that Islam teaches people to be in a race to do good is of course ironic. I guess some in the middle east thinking that beheading others and cutting their throats is something good, or kidnapping girls who don’t follow your religion and planning to sell them into slavery in Nigeria is something also good. I would hope she would say that those following these kinds of practices are not going to be treated kindly by Allah after death. I just can’t forget though that some nearly 50 years ago in talking with William F Buckley that Ali made Islam to be a peaceful religion. Sadly to much of the world, I think we would disagree with his comment some nearly 50 years ago.

  6. Eric 09:00am, 09/12/2014

    @Sam… Lot of “isms” in there. What about Hinduism? Communism? Liberalism? Cult of Political Correctness? Just kidding. I will agree with you that it is disturbing how some people idolize athletes, entertainers, and even lowlife politicians as if they were some sort of gods. And most are even more flawed than us regular citizens. Here in America for instance we have an unelected 9 sitting on the Supreme Court who have the power to judge and rule over the other 300 million for as long as they are capable of breathing air.

  7. Sam Young 07:49pm, 09/11/2014

    Why people love to worship other people, I’ll never know. I became a boxing fan when I was 13 years old. At that time, I liked Ali, but after about 3 to 3 1/2 years I lost interest in him as a boxer and a man. Muhammad Ali is a Sinner as every person in the human race is, as the Bible clearly states. Ali is in a Cult, so is his wife Lonnie. I’ll name you the top Cults in the World today - Catholicism, Islam, Buddism, 7th Day Adventism, Lutherism, Mormonism, Calvinism, New Age , Evolutionism, etc… Every False Cult uses an Extra Book and always trust in their Good Works to hopefully help save them from eternal Hell. But true Biblical Christianity only trust in the Holy Bible as the Word of God, and trust only in Jesus Christ as their Personal Saviour, not in their good works. God Bless, Sam Young.

  8. nicolas 07:36pm, 09/11/2014

    First: I did not always like Muhammad Ali, and can say to everyone here any time he fought I was always hoping he would lose. However, this idea that he gloated over people as Beau Jack suggests, I don’t really know if that is true. Perhaps over Liston, and even Patterson one could say he’s. But Ali I think became the icon of black athletes in the 1960’s, a rebellious era. To compare Louis to Ali in character is naive, in that Louis was told that he could not be towering over his fallen white opponents, as he had to be the respectable negro. Also because of Ali, I would suggest to everyone to look at the list of opponents he fought. Many were black men, who before Ali never really go t crack at the heavyweight championship. Before Muhammad Ali, there had been six black men who held the heavyweight championship, but only four other black men who got a shot at the heavyweight championship. Joe Louis I think helped America and perhaps the world accept a black man as champion, but would suggest that Ali allowed the Black man to be challenger, as the establishment perhaps wanted this man to be upended by anyone possible. Also as someone here once pointed out, Ali seemed to be much kinder to his white opponents. Henry Cooper, Joe Bugner, George Chuvalo, and Jerry Quarry. he gave great praise to Cooper, said that Bugner was intelligent and handsome, though joked he would make him ugly and illiterate, George Chuvalo he commented on his toughness, and can’t forget in the second fight, his pleading with the referee to stop it in the second fight.

  9. jill diamond 05:35pm, 09/11/2014

    Peter, it is so difficult to see once vital people diminished by illness. Our culture makes little allowance for this. It brings up feelings not easily dealt with; disappointment, shame and fear of our own vulnerability. I know, because I once had a robust husband who suffered similarly. Perhaps that’s one reason I admire the Ali’s so much for being public. They have helped others do the same. Muhammad Ali has lived with varying degrees of this condition for almost half his life and yet, I can attest to the fact that he is still very much here.

  10. peter 04:18pm, 09/11/2014

    I find this article’s accompanying photo to be compassionate and loving. Yet I find it to be equally disturbing. it’s a photo one might see at Ali’s deathbed.

  11. peter 04:14pm, 09/11/2014

    Another refreshing article, with intelligent questions. Thank you.

  12. Clarence George 02:55pm, 09/11/2014

    Eric:  I don’t have a strong opinion of Namath one way or the other.  He made an ass of himself in the ‘70s, but who didn’t?  Anyway, I certainly don’t put him in the same league as Jackie Robinson or Ali.

  13. Eric 02:26pm, 09/11/2014

    Clarence, I actually like Joe Namath, but feel he is vastly overrated as a football player and surely wasn’t one of the top 100 greatest athletes of the 20th century. However, I was wrong about Jackie Robinson, I had no idea he was a track star and played football & basketball while at UCLA. I was basing my judgement on Robinson’s baseball stats only, and had no idea he was such a gifted all around athlete. Anyhow, Namath threw 3,762 career passes and completed 1,886 of those for a passing percentage of 50.1%. Those aren’t all-time greatest athlete type of numbers.

  14. Clarence George 01:40pm, 09/11/2014

    Thank you, Beaujack.  I’m always glad when we’re on the same side.  And I agree that Louis would have beaten Ali, and that he was always a class act.  But I think Pete’s post, rather than mine, said it best.  I wonder if you agree with me, by the way, that Ali and Howard Cosell always brought out the worst in each other?

    I want to make clear, though, that a more clear-eyed view of Ali is one thing; derogating him is something else.  He needs the former; he doesn’t deserve the latter.

    A personal anecdote, if I may:  I remember when he once dined at Manero’s in Greenwich, Connecticut (my all-time favorite restaurant, which sadly no longer exists), and he gave me his autograph.  I treasure it; truly, I do.

  15. Clarence George 01:24pm, 09/11/2014

    Pete’s post is excellent.  In addition to Ali’s unconscionable viciousness toward Frazier, he also once called Joe Louis an Uncle Tom.  But what I always resented the most about him was his cringe-inducing showboating, which many people inexplicably mistook for charisma.  It did significant and long-lasting damage, particularly in terms of vulgarization, not only to the heavyweight division, but to boxing itself.  Impossible to imagine, say, the tiresome Adrien Broner if there had never been an Ali.

    He was a genuinely great fighter.  And I think, as I always have, a fundamentally good man.  But he needs to be kept more in perspective than he has, than he is.

    I’m always delighted when Robert agrees with me, but Jesus the “rabble-rouser”?  That’s what’s known as reductionism, let me tell youse. 

    By the way, Eric, I recently saw a commercial with Namath, who was pretty much unrecognizable.  He looked like he should be in a retirement community in Boca.

  16. beaujack 01:20pm, 09/11/2014

    Clarence, what you post is so true, so true….I agree with your viewpoint 100%...How he demeaned Joe Frazier and other opponents cannot and should not be forgotten…I saw him as an amateur boxer in the Olympics
    before he turned pro, saw him at the FOTC against Frazier, and would
    put my money on the young Joe Louis of the Max Baer era against any version of Clay/Ali prime. I loved when Louis kod a man, didn’t gloat,
    and showed such innate class, as opposed to Ali’s flaunting over his
    opponent who after all was trying to earn a living…

  17. Eric 10:59am, 09/11/2014

    Just went over that list comprised by ESPN in 1999 on the greatest athletes of the 20th century that was referenced by Ali’s wife.  Ali was 3rd behind Jordan & Ruth, which I agree with btw. Don’t know the criteria for this list other than it chose only athletes who were from or mainly competed in North America. While Ali and Jordan were more dominant in their chosen sport, Jim Thorpe was the best all around athlete of the past century period. Thorpe was ranked behind both men. In fact it is arguable that not only Thorpe but athletes like Jim Brown, Gretzky, Willie Mays, Chamberlin, and Navratilova were all better athletes in their chosen sports than Ali in boxing. The list is very questionable. It lists Jackie Robinson at #15? You have got to be kidding, and Joe Namath at #88. Joe Namath doesn’t even belong in a greatest 100 football players list much less 100 greatest athletes. Broadway Joe barely completed 50% of his passes during his career.

  18. Robert Ecksel 10:56am, 09/11/2014

    Perhaps no man should be canonized since all men are flawed. But men are judged, usually in retrospect, based on the sum total of their accomplishments. Ali, who is more flawed than some and less flawed than others, at least has among his accomplishments the heavyweight title of the world, which is no mean feat. What makes Ali fascinating, at least for me, is that he came to embody the zeitgeist, the spirit of his age, which was pretty much unheard for a boxer. The zeitgeist of that particular age wasn’t to everyone’s taste and understandably so, but it was a moment in time when global upheaval, to which we’ve unfortunately grown accustomed, was something new, if not always something welcome. I agree with Clarence that Ali isn’t or shouldn’t be a Christ-like figure, especially since the historical Jesus was anything but the peaceful shepherd we’ve been led to believe. He was a rabble-rouser who was put to death by the Romans for sedition. Ali wasn’t put to death, despite his run-ins with the state, but has somehow died and been reborn many times, all in a single lifetime.

  19. Pete The Sneak 10:17am, 09/11/2014

    It’s certainly easier to have much more compassion/likeability for Ali today (not that he’s looking for any) than it was back in the day. And I certainly respect his boxing accomplishments as well as his charitable endeavors…However, with that being said, I still can’t forget how Ali tormented and treated his ‘brother’ Joe Frazier. Ali took those promotions to such a dirty level (white mans champion, Gorilla, Ignorant, Uncle Tom), that Frazier,  a decent, humble and hardworking family man who hated to trash talk, was put in a position he didn’t want to be in, having to spar with Ali in the media. Frazier was no match for Ali in this particular arena and thus was always portrayed as ‘stupid.’ Frazier’s children were getting into fights in school every day trying to defend their father when other kids would repeat the taunts Ali was quoting in the media about Joe. I think more than anything else, that was the main reason Frazier (despite what you may have read) never forgave Ali for that. And please don’t tell me that this was all part of the promotion to sell tickets to the fight. Their money for each of their fights was guaranteed. Ali took it to a different level of disrespect for Frazier and his family when there really was no reason to be doing that. So yes, reading about Ali today, I can certainly understand all the accolades and compassion for him, but I’m just saying that he should not be canonized (or whatever they do to glorify you in Islam) to be this totally saintly figure his wife is making him out to be…Peace.

  20. Robert Ecksel 09:49am, 09/11/2014

    I agree with Matt. I’d be willing to bet Ali is more aware of his imperfections than we are of his imperfections, and maybe even more aware than we are of our own.

  21. Eric 09:11am, 09/11/2014

    The older Ali’s wife gets the more she looks like his mother. I think I’ve read somewhere that a great deal of men either consciously or subconsciously look to choose a mate who is a great deal like their mother.

  22. Matt McGrain 08:33am, 09/11/2014

    A wonderful boxer and an interesting man.  Interesting perspective this.  I hear strange things but enjoyed the read.

  23. Clarence George 08:11am, 09/11/2014

    All respect, but I strongly disagree with the fundamental premise expressed here, while recognizing that it’s as expected as it is understandable.  After all, it’s Mrs. Ali who speaks.

    I hold Ali the boxer in high regard, but I don’t consider him the greatest heavyweight of all time, never mind the greatest pound-for-pounder.  He’s inevitably overrated, precisely because of the kind of virtual deification given voice here. 

    I’m not going to criticize Mrs. Ali for loving her husband or for singing his praises, but it’s difficult to swallow her “Muhammad is still thought of as ‘The Greatest’ because of what he represents to so many people around the world.  Simply put, it’s humanity toward others that makes him the greatest in the hearts and minds of many.”  Whatever Ali’s attributes and endeavors outside the ring, he’s anything but a Christ-like figure.  And, no, that’s not a comment on his religion.

    I understand the respect…but not the cultism.