by Charles Jay
News organizations in the United Kingdom jumped on a story a couple of days ago that indicated Muhammad Ali, the three-time heavyweight champion, could be only days away from death, quoting his brother, Rahman Ali.
But then Ali’s daughter, May May, countered that report by saying that her father was at home was at home in Scottsdale, AZ, getting ready to watch the Super Bowl.
In fact, the champ was wearing his Baltimore Ravens jersey, and for a very special reason. Ali was brought into camp by Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh before the season opener against Cincinnati. The message he communicated was that they had to earn respect for themselves, something which came with deeds rather than words.. Later he spent some time with the players and their families. This was one of the inspirations the Ravens brought into the post-season, along with the retirement of Ray Lewis and former linebacker O.J. Brigance’s ongoing battle with ALS.
In fact, Harbaugh had been in touch with Ali’s family prior to the Super Bowl, inviting them to come to New Orleans, was told by a grateful Ali that he would stay at home to view the game.
The Ravens’ players continued to talk about Ali’s visit throughout the season. Lonnie rooted outwardly for the team, as she said “we felt like family” in their surroundings.
Ali has actually been an influence on Harbaugh and his Ravens’ squad for years. According to a New York Times story, Harbaugh made a habit of breaking team huddles by asking “What’s my name?”, an obvious reference to Ali’s fight against Ernie Terrell (where Terrell persisted in calling him “Clay”). And the team responds, “Baltimore Ravens!”
Before the AFC title game against New England, Ali reportedly communicated a text message to the coach that read, “If I had wings, I’d be there with you.”
According to May May, Rahman isn’t even in contact with the family, and hasn’t been for months, so there would be no way for him to know anything specific about Ali’s health at this time.
The brother, who claims to have suffered twenty strokes, told the well-known UK tabloid The Sun, “It could be months, it could be days. I don’t know if he’ll last the summer. He’s in God’s hands. We hope he gently passes away” and the tabloid took some license and ran with it.
But Ali’s wife Lonnie posted a picture of Ali wearing Ray Lewis’ jersey on Facebook. By all accounts that was current, and it has obviously been backed up by reports from close family.
Apparently there has been a rift in the family, and Rahman, who lives in Louisville, blames Lonnie for keeping him apart from his brother. as a result, he does not see him and speaks to him on the phone only occasionally. He also asserted that Lonnie has stopped payment to a trust fund that had been set up for him by the legend, and that “If he knew what was happening and where I’m living now, he’d be as mad as hell.”
Rahman fought professionally as a heavyweight (also as Rudy Clay), compiling a documented mark (it may be incomplete) of 14-3. Among his highlights were a ten-round decision win over Levi Forte and a six-round defeat to Danny McAlinden (a former British and Commonwealth champion), not to mention an eight-round KO loss to Jack O’Halloran, who defeated the likes of McAlinden, Cleveland Williams and Terry Daniels.
In all fairness to Rahman’s claims, there have been biological children of Ali who also claim to have had contact cut off. Muhammad Ali Jr., a 41-year-old son of Belinda Ali, told the website USCombatSports a couple of years ago, “It’s hard to talk to my father because his wife, Lonnie, blocks him from talking to me. Fame changes people. It makes them do what their not supposed to do. If they really love a person, their supposed to do certain things.”
The namesake son went on to explain that his daughter died during infancy, and that Lonnie made the decision not to bring Ali to see his granddaughter before she died, but to Herbert Muhammad’s funeral instead. He explained, “That’s what you get when you marry somebody that doesn’t love you, except for your money.”