If you're from my generation, one of your early sports heroes is likely to be Ali. He first burst upon the public as an amateur boxer. He won two National Golden Gloves titles. He won the Light-Heavyweight Gold Medal at the 1960 Olympic Games, in Rome. He had over One Hundred amateur bouts. 100 fights!!! Amazing.
I first remember seeing him on the old ABC Friday Night Fights. Don Dunphy doing the announcing. Sponsored by Gillette. Followed by Make That Spare. Ah yes...childhood memories.
I was 11 years old when he beat big, bad Sonny Liston to win the Heavyweight title. In the early days he dominated his opponents. Floyd Patterson, Ernie Terrell, Cleveland Williams, Zora Folley...he beat all the big names in the Heavyweight division and came out pretty much unscathed. He said he was the greatest and the prettiest...and he really was.
He was banned from boxing for refusing to be inducted into the military.
I ain't got no quarrel with those Vietcong.
His stance made him even more popular with those of us who opposed the Vietnam war.
When Ali was allowed to return to the ring, that's when his most famous fights occurred. Three of them with Joe Frazier. Two with Ken Norton. The Rumble in the Jungle against George Foreman.
The problem was Ali was no longer in his prime. Frazier won the first fight. He knocked him down with a vicious punch in the 15th round. The third fight with Frazier was the "Thrilla in Manilla." One of the greatest fights of all-time. It sent both men to the hospital. Ali said about the fight, "this is the closest to dying I've ever been."
He fought six more years after the "Thrilla". He took beatings from Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick. His final professional record was 56 wins with 5 losses.
If a boxer is one of your idols at age 11 and he's still boxing when you turn 29, you know that can't be a good thing for his health.
Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1984. He was only 42 years old. In doing some research, I've seen it said that he doesn't have true PD but Parkinson's syndrome or symptoms. He may also have Parkinson's Pugilistica, which was mentioned in yesterday's blog. No matter what it is, there's no question that boxing for more than twenty years, with over 160 total bouts takes a horrible toll.
Sadly, he was far from the only one. Joe Frazier was a shell of himself after his career ended. Ken Norton suffered two strokes before dying. Boxing related...absolutely.
The Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center and Movement Disorders Clinic was established in 1997, in Phoenix Arizona. This years fundraiser for the center was held about two weeks ago. It raised more than a million dollars. Ali was unable to attend.
We seen him in recent years on rare occasions but he's been unable to speak. Parkinson's has done what his boxing opponents were unable to do. It's silenced "The Mouth."
Tomorrow- An Ali Photo Gallery