Ali Being Physically Supported By Wife Lonnie


San Francisco, CA– Having been watching and admiring Muhammad Ali since he was known as Cassius Clay, this when he went against Doug Jones in his Madison Square Garden debut in 1963, I have always pondered over the years what really was Ali’s greatest fight? Let me tell you that it wasn’t the “Rumble in The Jungle” with George Foreman, not the “Thrilla’ in Manila” or Ali-Joe Frazier III, nor was it his losing battle with Father Time.


The toughest fight for Muhammad Ali has been his health, in particular Parkinson’s disease coupled with the residual effects of 21 years of professional boxing and a glorified amateur career which netted Ali the Gold Medal boxing at light heavyweight in the 1960 Olympic Games. While some of you will look back and think that the punishment he took against Earnie Shavers, Larry Holmes, the aforementioned George Foreman or Joe Frazier, and point the finger at those wars and say they damaged Ali the most, that’s not the view from my perch.


Before being exiled from boxing in 1967 by the U.S. Selective Service Bureau, this after they had originally classified Ali as being “too dumb” to be in the Army, the Government changed their mind soon after Ali announced he was now a practicing Muslim. After being forced into a 3 ½ year exile from boxing, the returning Ali was a “shell” of his former self. Post 1970, the majority of the damage Ali suffered was in the gym sparring against the likes of Larry Holmes, Ron Lyle and others.


The imposed hiatus from boxing took away both Ali’s peak and his legs. In some of the exhibitions Ali had prior to the first comeback fight with Jerry Quarry in 1970, Muhammad simply laid back on the ropes and took an unprecedented amount of punishment. Longtime cornerman and motivator Drew “Bundini” Brown screamed at Ali to “shoe shine” (throw fast flurries of punches) and get off the ropes in these ABC televised exhibitions, while he attempted to, for the most part he could not. In 1970, four years prior to the Foreman fight in Zaire, Ali was for all intents and purposes a shot fighter!


This past week we saw the 70-year old former heavyweight champion of the world at the Olympic Games in London, England. It was so sad that it depressed me. Watching an ill, frail and old Muhammad Ali being led around by a champion of a woman in his wife Lonnie, to me was the saddest event I’ve seen on television in years. It appeared to me that the progression of Parkinson’s and something that some boxing pundits refute, you know like the Koch brothers denying the fact that Global Warming exists, that the residual effects of professional boxing are the reason why Ali is in the state he is now.


They say, “He who fails to learn from history is a fool.” Having watched (and listened) to ex-world champion Frankie Klick when I was as young as ten years old, I knew the results of getting hit were not a positive thing. The reason I quit boxing was that the punches that were at one time missing me by inches, were now reduced to millimeters, and the ones that didn’t miss were landing at a far greater frequency.


Most of you so-called boxing fans don’t see guys 20 years later. Look at Freddie Roach, the esteemed trainer of Manny Pacquiao and the like, Freddie is a medical nightmare who is well on his way to being in Ali’s current condition.


That being said, time and again I go to boxing cards where fights are allowed to go on too long. The other night I watched Alfonso Gomez get the snot kicked out of him for eight of ten rounds against up and comer Shawn Porter. Had his corner, the referee, or the so-called ringside physicians stopped the fight after round seven, Gomez would have I’m sure objected and a good portion of fans would have booed. (A side note, Gomez was taken post fight to a local hospital examined and released) To these officials and paid spectators that balk at my mindset, I can only say one thing, look at Muhammad Ali today!

Pedro Fernandez


  • Red Hook Bopper

    is it really boxing that’s at fault or is it the poor technique of modern (post-1950) boxers? How many of the old timers ended up with pugilistic dementia? Not many.

    Ted Lowry, journeyman fighter in the ’50s, reached 90 with his mind fully intact and people would ask him how he did it. His answer? “I knew how to fight”

    Makes you wonder…

  • Pedro Fernandez

    Mario, can you ever write anything good about a Black fighter? Both comments were slanted if not prejudiced.

  • When these fighters reflect on what they would have been in life had they not pursued a boxing career…Most likely, I don’t think they have any regrets regarding there life after boxing.

  • Not all figher’s get punchy.

    Some champs who kept their marbles: Max Schemling, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, George Chuvalo, Archie Moore, Bob Foster, Carmen Basilio, Jose Torres, George Foreman, Marvin Hagler,

  • You forget thats what fighters do, they fight. It is their sport. The problem exists because:
    1/ they go on too long when they are finished
    2/ the gym wars they have.

    Unfortunately stopping fights early may in fact save the boxers from further damage during the bout which allows them to fight another day over and over because the fights are stopped early they really don’t believe they are washed up and finished.

    Trainers who have their boxers / charge best interest at heart will not train them if they feel they are finished. They need to be held responsible to some degree as does the commission for allowing them to continue when it is obvious they are finished.

    In the case of Ali how thou do you tell the greatest heavyweight of all time you haven’t got it anymore, Sad but Holmes new he could beat Ali years prior and after Ali first stoppage loss and his health started to deteriorate then the commission allowed him to fight berbick… please

    PS: Bazbrown i too watched that bout and cringed because i could see something was wrong, further i couldn’t believe the commentating stating “he had quit”. It sickened me.

  • Ali acted like a runaway slave his entire life, though there were no chains and people were not trying to hold him down. He was an insufferable jerk in the public eye, but is it only now that we see him frail and meek and we are somehow supposed to admire him as a great human being? He gained nothing in those 3.5 years when it comes to character! He came up short.

    The man you see before you now is someone that is frail, but that doesn’t diminish the a**hole he was during his sporting years.

  • In terms of collateral damage, the saddest fight I’ve ever witnessed was the Nigel Benn V Gerald McClellan. Even though he was winning the fight and nearly (technically should have) knocked out Benn, it was obvious there was something not right with Gerard McClellan. I distinctly remember a round or two before he was stopped, he want down on one knee and there were awful boos from the crowd. I wonder how those ‘fans’ felt about booing once they knew how damaged he really was?

  • Sure, Victor…Don’t you think that the fact that World champions have some of the toughest sparring partners has anything to do with the residual effects? I think the training is what is detrimental. All of those rounds in the gym etc. I believe it might be better for pro’s to have more fights than to to be in the gym all the time. From what I hear Archie Moore didn’t work out in the gym for lengths of time. I think staying sharp and not going up and down in weight all the time is the healthiest for fighters. Guys who are undisciplined, their bodies go through unnatural changes that are bad for your organs and the pinches to the brain repeatedly in the gym with headgear on and bigger gloves doesn’t help either.

  • if chuck wepner could bleed in almost all of his notable fights and still in good shape,i dont think d fights has anything to do with ex-fighters health.

  • Very sad to see—his wife had to pull his arms out, almost close his hands for him in order for him to grab the Olympic flag, Ali all the while staring vacantly ahead; he may as well have been at home in his kitchen for all he seemed to know.

    I think most of Ali’s damage came in the Holmes fight. He was pounded on continuously for ten rounds but took a great punch and had too much pride to quit. Had Ali stayed retired after the second Spinks fight, had he not taken the Holmes fight, he could have claimed he beat ever man he fought and avoided that damage.

    It was Ali that first drew me into the fight game, first made me a huge boxing fan with his comeback in the Fall of 1970 when I had just started junior high school.

    I cursed Joe Frazier for breaking his unbeaten record in 1971 and lost my voice for four days after he beat Foreman where I watched the fight live at the Pleasanton Fairgrounds, yelled at him to get off the ropes for eight rounds; I got home that night to see my parents had made and put up an “I Am the Greatest” banner across the garage door.

    How ironic if his badly failing health forever draws me away from the sport.

  • When I see people crying about early stoppages or saying guys like Josesito Lopez should have a right to fight guys who will outweigh them on fight night by quite possibly 15 pounds, I say to myself, it’s better to err on the side of caution in this game. Normally people who have the mind set have never been in a fight before, and I believe that is the mindset of a lot of writers. what I never understood about this game and many other sports for that matter is how can you have so many damn experts write about something they haven’t done themselves? The the varsity basketball coach at my high school (I played Jr Varsity but he lead the program) could barely dribble a basketball and got his basketball knowledge from reading I think this culture is unhealthy for the fight game. If you are going to be an expert on something, lace up some gloves or at the very least know it’s like to be in a fight. so many armchair quarterbacks in journalism. It can be dangerous in this sport because it’s much worse for a referee to let a fight continue when a fighters only shot is a hail mary punch than it is to stop a fight early to save someone from either his or her own braveness or their corners.

  • I have seen too too many former fighters who can barely remember things in the past and most have nothing financially to show for it. I never ask anything like “how are things today or are you financially ok?” I only ask if “are you doing anything pertaining to boxing today?”

  • One of my sadest boxing experiences was going to the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canosota New York and seeing the condition of many of my boxing heros. The accumulation of punches over their boxing careers had left them in condition similar to Ali. We need to be stopping fights earlier when the fighter is getting beat up like Alfonso Gomez and has no chance to win the fight.

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