Muhammad Ali’s wife Yolanda Williams Ali has been at the center of some controversy surrounding Muhammad’s children. Recently an article detailing the breakdown of Ali’s relations to his kids appeared in the New York Post, and Yolanda was fingered as the catalyst (to note, Muhammad Ali’s wife go by Lonnie). Part of the problem is that Muhammad Ali is now wholly in the grips of Parkinson’s, whether you want to call it the disease or the syndrome. His sons attest to his catatonic state, and his son Muhammad Jr. says he wishes it would take him sooner rather than later so that he could escape the pain.
According to Muhammad Jr., who the article describes as poor and destitute while living in a slum in Chicago, his father cannot communicate and is existing in a comatose state, in pain all the time. A number of the Ali children say that Muhammad Ali’s wife Lonnie cut them off from visiting and seeing their father when she married him. She was his fourth wife, and Ali had actually had children with a few other women besides his wives. There’s always two sides to a story, but it does seem wrong that Muhammad Jr. will not get a chance to see his father on his birthday and has been barred from seeing him at all. Lonnie might say Ali is too frail to travel and that a visit wouldn’t make any difference considering his condition, but it doesn’t seem right to keep Ali from his family.
For the one or two people who don’t know who Muhammad Ali is, he is widely considered to be the greatest heavyweight champion ever. His blinding speed and reflexes, tough-as-nails endurance, and preternatural ring instincts allowed him to become the only boxer in history to win the lineal World Championship three times. That means he was undisputed three separate times: 1964, 74, and 78. I’ve seen almost all of his fights, and for a nice demo of his skills, check out this video.
While it’s easy for the children to scapegoat Muhammad Ali’s wife as a major roadblock in their life, Ali’s terrible battle with Parkinson’s has left neurological damage. Many of the children now suggest that he can’t remember who they are. Ali Jr. detailed a story about when he first started having memory lapses back in 1986. Ali had taken him to an ice cream parlor and then driven off. His son called his wife, and his wife relayed the message to Ali that he’d left him there, and when Ali got back he told his son that he forgot he was there. Ali Jr. says that was the first time he realized Ali had a real problem, and it’s only gotten worse with time. It is true that Muhammad looks quite unhealthy now. All I can say is I hope for the best for his family and peace for Muhammad Ali, The Greatest.