Muhammad Ali’s Parkinson’s disease has advanced to the point he can barely speak or leave his Arizona home, according to a member of his family.
According to his younger brother, Rahman Ali, the 72-year-old former heavyweight world champion was too incapacitated to attend this week’s Hollywood premiere of a documentary about his life, I Am Ali.
“I have not been able to talk to my brother about this because he is sick. He doesn’t speak too well. But he is proud that we are here for him. He has given this film his blessing,” Rahman told the Sunday People.
In February 2013, Rahman said his brother “could die within days”, prompting a flurry of media activity and denials from other members of the family.
Ali, whose ability to “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” applied to verbal as well as athletic dexterity, has endured a gradual deterioration since his Parkinson’s was diagnosed in 1984.
Ali appeared at the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, where he was helped across the stage by his wife, Lonnie. Frailty prevented the three-time world champion and Olympic gold medallist from participating in the making of the new documentary, however. It uses interviews with relatives and confidantes as well as audio journals recorded in his prime.
His daughter Maryum, 46, also attended the premiere. She said she was excited at the prospect of her father viewing the documentary at home. “He is going to love it. I know he is. He is going to cry, he is going to laugh. He will be very proud.”
The film, directed by Britain’s Clare Lewins, traces the story of Cassius Clay from his birth in Louisville, Kentucky, to gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics, beating Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship, changing his religion and his name and going into exile after refusing the draft for Vietnam.
In January, Ali’s son, Muhammad Ali Jr, said there was “no chance” his father would last the year. “I just want, hope and pray to God that this awful disease takes my dad sooner rather than later,” he said.
With fourth wife, Yolanda Williams Ali, 1986-present
With third wife, Veronica Porsche Ali, 1977-1986
With second wife, Belinda Boyd, 1967-1977
With first wife, Sonji Roi- 1964-1966