No other boxer has ever had the same impact as Muhammad Ali. Once known as Cassius Clay, the legendary punch machine established himself as the greatest to ever set foot on a boxing ring, but his work off-sports was even more impressive.
Unfortunately, Ali couldn't enjoy his golden days the way he deserved, as he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease soon after retirement.
There Were Early Signs
Now, six years after his passing, Ali's eldest daughter, Mary Ali, revealed that her father showed early signs of this condition during his famous fight with Leon Spinks in 1978:
“I was so little [during the fight]. I remember seeing a difference in his speech when he fought Leon Spinks the second time actually,” Mary said. “It was just the slurrness… They did a study on my father years ago saying that’s exactly when his speech started to slur. “It was during that fight.”
We Know More About It Now
Ali was just 36 by the time of the fight, but research and treatment weren't as up-to-date as they're nowadays. That's why Mary believes it's crucial to continue spreading awareness of this condition:
“A lot wasn’t known about Parkinson’s back then, as it is now. We have great research now, Ali continued. People know what it is. Great therapies. But back then he was kind of lost and was told he had Parkinson’s syndrome and then it wouldn’t progress… but it did.”
He Had A Full Life
Still, the legendary boxer was able to live a fulfilling and iconic life despite struggling with this condition. Even with the early diagnosis, he lived for three more decades:
“There was a learning curve. He learned a lot. The more education he had about it, the more the family understood it the better he could help himself and we could help him and therapies improved, Mary added. “You know it wasn’t a death sentence. He lived with Parkinson’s for over 30 years and had a full life.”
The Cause Is Unknown
The easy conclusion would be that enduring so much head trauma would lead to the condition. However, his daughter claims that there's still no answer as to how he got the disease:
“You never know, it could be a combination of the head trauma or maybe the fact that he was exposed to lead paints when he was younger. So you just kind of never know,” she concluded.
It's a shame to see one of the greatest athletes of all time go through this, but his legacy will live forever.