Former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, whose health has been dicey, putting it mildly, forever, has apparently taken a turn for the worse. According to a report published in the London Evening Standard earlier this week, The Greatest is losing his two-decade long battle with Parkinson's disease and he may be dying.
Quoting an unnamed family friend, "[Aliâ€™s] condition has worsened. At this point, he may only have months to live."
Those who get their â€œnewsâ€? from the news are at a big disadvantage when it comes to discerning fact from fiction, truth from lies, patriotism from agitprop, fear mongering from human decency â€¦ especially when it comes to Ali â€“ one of the most beloved â€“ and one of the most exploited â€“ men on the face of the planet.
As to the current state of his health, even those in Aliâ€™s inner circle seem unable to get their stories straight. His marketing agent, Harlan Werner, denied the news report. He told BBC Sport that "Muhammad is fine and he has numerous appearances lined up. He had surgery on his back and was in therapy for that, but that had nothing to do with Parkinson's. He is fine. It is disrespectful to Muhammad to suggest that he would not tell the truth about his health."
Thatâ€™s a marketing agent for you.
Ali's longtime friend, photographer and manager, Howard Bingham, who is as close to Ali as anyone on the planet, said, "[His daughter] Laila feels she is losing him."
Laila Ali, in a story printed in the Los Angeles Times, more or less agreed: "I feel like the disease is progressing. Different things start happening as you get older. I have noticed a change in him, something that goes along with Parkinson's.â€?
Not to mention the debilitating effects of boxing.
"It's painful for me,â€? she continued, â€œbecause I would love to sit down and talk to my dad about the way he used to be when he was my age, when he was in his prime, because we are so much alike. I can't really do that. I can't share a lot of things with him."
She also revealed, according to the British-based Mirror, that the 63-year-old former world heavyweight champ has stopped talking to others and has shut himself away from the world.
With all the leeches out there, who can blame him?
Human nature being what it is (and, alas, what it is not), we seem hardwired to make heroes out of mortals, gods out of men, turning flesh and blood into plaster of Paris. But rather than deify, idolize, fawn and drool over a man whose faults, like his virtues, are huge, we should be graceful enough, grateful enough, to leave Ali alone.
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