RING KING My dad Muhammad Ali loved watching himself on TV…’weren’t I something’, he’d say to us
MUHAMMAD ALI spent his final days watching documentaries about his stellar boxing career, according to his daughter Hana.
The boxing legend, born Cassius Clay Jr, died aged 74 in June 2016, 32 years after he went public with his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.
Speaking about her father five years on from his death, Hana, 44, told The Sun: “He loved watching himself on TV. ‘Weren’t I something’, he would say to us, his children.
“He would watch Elvis films on TV, and documentaries about James Brown and Little Richard, but mainly about himself, especially at the age he had Parkinson’s.
“You could see that light in his eyes. That spark. His eyes were dancing although his body wasn’t. He would look around the room smiling, it was so funny. No matter how bad his position was, he didn’t complain.
“He never questioned his illness, he never asked, ‘Why me?’
“He never felt sorry for himself, he felt a blessing in everything and said having Parkinson’s helps other people that are scared and frightened who are hiding away in their homes.
“Even in his illness he inspired people, his journey on this earth.
“He found a way to keep on going and life was all the blessings he had.”
During his 21-year career, Ali, who was married four times and had seven children, became known as the best boxer of all time – with 56 wins, including 37 knockouts.
‘OUR FUN-FILLED HOME’
He retired in 1981 following a final fight against Trevor Berbick in the Bahamas, where he lost on points.
Three years later in 1984, Ali revealed he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Hana, whose mother was Ali’s third wife, Veronica Porché, said life at home with Ali was always filled with fun and that it was totally normal to have major celebrities dropping by for dinner.
Hana added: “Clint Eastwood was around a lot, Stevie Wonder, Cary Grant.
“Michael Jackson visited a few times. Prince would come later in the Nineties and we had dinner with Madonna a few times.
“Over the years, so many celebrities that you’ve heard of tried to meet my father and have been to our home. The list is endless. Everyone was a fan of my dad’s.”
Another close pal of Ali’s was Sylvester Stallone, 74, and Hana revealed the actor even filmed scenes for Rocky III at his home in LA.
Hana said: “I remember watching Stallone filming for Rocky III. They filmed different scenes. One was in my parents’ bedroom, one was on the patio, on the southern side.
“We had beautiful furniture – they used all our original furnishings in the scenes. They didn’t change it, they didn’t bring in any props.
Over the years, so many celebrities that you’ve heard of tried to meet my father and have been to our home. The list is endless.
“The house was set up for the scenes as we lived in it.
“My dad was always entertaining the crew – he loved doing his magic tricks for them and they would laugh out loud. And my father would try to sit them down, to take a break so he could feed them.
“My dad and Stallone would have fun during breaks. He was like a big kid, he enjoyed being Muhammad Ali.”
Despite the A-listers that came through the door of their home, Hana said she and her father connected the most with Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, 85.
Recalling their meeting, Hana explained: “My dad and I hung out with the Dalai Lama in 2004. He was the only person I felt was a spiritual being like my dad.
“That was the only person I can say I was kind of excited about – not like the celebrities over the years who are admired for other reasons.
“Just because you make music or people know your name or you are famous – I wasn’t impressed by this because, as I was growing up, my father told me what was important and what wasn’t important in life.”
‘I FEEL HE’S STILL HERE’
Although it has been five years since Ali died of Parkinson’s-related complications, Hana said she feels her father’s presence to this day.
Multiple films and books have been dedicated to him, and Hana said these help keep his memory alive.
She said: “It’s like he’s here. Everywhere I turn there’s a poster of daddy, or he’s on TV. His energy is everywhere. I talk to his photo and say, ‘Daddy I love you! When it’s my time, I hope I can see you – come and get me’.
“He brought all his kids together from all the marriages and made sure we knew each other. This was a beautiful gift he gave us. Now we’re all good friends.