8 - Triumph and Tragedy

After having retired from professional boxing, Muhammad Ali went through difficult times. His health was cause of serious concerns among his fans and family. Fatigue, lack of concentration, and an occasionally occurring slurred speech finally led to Ali undergoing a series of medical checks in New York.

After the eight day examination, supervised by professor of neurology Stanley Fahn, the public was told that Ali showed "mild symptoms" of Parkinson's Syndrome which is a neurological disorder causing, among other things, a tremor, slowness of movement and rigidity of muscles. It was also said that Ali's life was not in danger due to this disease that possibly could be treated successfully.

The following years brought changes in Muhammad Ali's private environment. In summer of 1986, his marriage with Veronica broke and Ali married long-time friend Lonnie Williams in the same year. Lonnie, occasionally calling her husband "my baby", had been knowing Ali almost all of her life since their mothers are neighbors and good friends in Louisville. Many intimates of the couple agree that solicitous Lonnie is "the best that could happen to Ali".

Two years later, Ali suffered a heavy loss when Drew "Bundini" Brown, Ali's long time motivator and close friend, died from a stroke. Bundini invented the legendary phrase "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee", he and Ali used to shout out on uncountable occasions, perfectly characterizing the young Ali's fighting style.

Muhammad Ali appeared on global stage in 1990 when he freed fifteen US hostages from the Iraq during the gulf crisis. Negotiations were eased by his being muslim (which however doesn't narrow this success).

Ali was once again the Greatest in 1996 when he lit the Olympic fire in Atlanta. The confident way he presented himself despite trembling heavily impressed millions around the globe. Fifteen years after his retirement and twelve years after his being diagnosed of Parkinson, he celebrated an impressing comeback on the stage of sport.

Muhammad Ali doesn't want people to feel sorry for him because of his physical condition. Ali who prays five times a day takes his fate as God's will: "I had a good life before and I'm having a good life now." According to himself, Ali has become a true believer in Allah after his retirement from boxing and has been one ever since. Ali believes in freedom and brotherhood of all people. He condemned the terrorists of September 11, saying they spoiled the religion of Islam.


Finally, we have reached the end of a remarkable story, the precedentless story of a sportsman who rose from a cocky country boy from Louisville, Kentucky, to a man who was not only more successful in boxing than anyone before and after, but also influenced thousands of people in America and around the globe by courageously standing up for his personal and religious beliefs. The story of a man who today has one of the most recognizable faces on this planet, a man with millions of admirers worldwide whose door is still open for everyone who needs help of any kind.

The story of the Greatest:

Muhammad Ali

The Greatest

Copyright 2000 by Johannes Ehrmann
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