by Sean Crose
“The Greatest” has been hospitalized, but is reportedly not down for the count just yet.
Muhammad Ali, the 72-year-old heavyweight legend, was taken in to what the Daily News reports is an unnamed hospital on Saturday because he came down with pneumonia. Ali’s camp, however, is making it clear the boxing icon is not knocking on death’s door.
“He went into the hospital this morning,” Ali spokesperson Bob Gunnell claimed, via the AP. “He has a mild case of pneumonia and the prognosis is good.”
The situation seems to have come on suddenly. “This all came about this morning,” stated Gunnell.
Indeed pneumonia is something that has to be taken seriously. This is particularly true as one begins to age. Furthermore, Ali has suffered from Parkinson’s disease since at least the mid 1980s, an illness which makes him particularly susceptible to pneumonia.
The public has watched as Ali’s health has deteriorated over the years. The once controversial, vibrant, boisterous and, yes, funny heavyweight great has shown virtually all the obvious physical symptoms of Parkinson’s: tremors, stoic facial expressions and slurred, slow speech.
For a man who was once regularly in the public eye, Ali can be said to have taken a private turn as of late. Recently, it’s been said that Ali can no longer speak at all. This, of course, can be viewed as being bitterly ironic since the man was as quick with his words as he was with his feet and fists.
Truth be told, however, Ali has truly shown how to handle his debilitating illness with grace and dignity. Parkinson’s may not yet be beatable, but The Greatest isn’t going without a fight. If there is any positive to Ali’s failing health it’s the fact that he’s gone from being controversial to universally admired as he has gamely battles on.
Ali is arguably more than a fighter. He protested the war in Vietnam, putting his money where his mouth was by giving up the heavyweight title rather than serving in the military. He also converted to Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay after winning the title from Sonny Liston in the 60s.
Most fighters, indeed most athletes in general, die in relative obscurity. Ali has assured that he will remain a public figure until he breathes his last breath.
There are those, of course, who feel that boxing gave Ali Parkinson’s, and therefore should be banned due to its dangerous nature. While it may be true that the blow’s Ali took in the ring may have led to this deadly disease (they certainly didn’t help matters), it’s doubtful that Ali views boxing as physically and morally detrimental.
Indeed the organization Rock Steady uses boxing – that’s right, boxing – to help Parkinson’s patients battle their disease. And before you think the organization is run by some crackpot, know that one of the program’s leaders is none other than Dr. Roberta Marongiu, an instructor in neurological surgery at Cornell University.
Participants of the Rock Steady program don’t engage in combat, of course, but they engage in the same training methods employed by fighters – amateurs and pros alike – to achieve their goals. If Ali doesn’t know about Rock Steady, there’s little doubt he’d be pleased if he did. For boxing, though it gets a bad rap, can be a very positive thing.
Ali’s family apparently wants a degree of privacy at this time, so it’s best for journalists not to dig too deeply into the matter of Ali’s current condition . Suffice to say the man’s fallen ill, but is still very much alive, and in no imminent danger of death.
At least there’s some tiny bit of good news out there to report.