Warning: Do not read about Muhammad Ali Jr’s story if any of the following circumstances apply.
— You don’t want to hear about the champ’s rapidly deteriorating health and mental state.
— Don’t delight in hearing a grown man tell a sob story.
— Just don’t want to read sad news on a Sunday.
Those are all ways to characterize the tale of the younger Ali, currently living in the same Chicago as his father but virtually cut off not only from his dad’s wealth but also communication with the elder Ali. The story from the New York Post’s profile published Sunday with Muhammad Ali Jr., now 41, explaining how his life went down the toilet. Let this be a cautionary tale to all these newly born “break babies” and their parents.
A few of the highlights…or maybe they’re low lights.
His lot in life:
“It’s like I’m cursed. My life is cursed. I thought about even changing my name to Malik Islam and running away and starting a new life again. But my children stop me. I want to teach them and give them the discipline I never got.”
While Ali was champion of the world at age 22 and amassed a fortune of well over $100 million, his son is living off food stamps. Driving with a reporter to his local cafe for breakfast, he points excitedly at a charity shelter and says it’s his savior.
“I go there when I ain’t got no food in the crib or the kids need shoes and clothes,” he says
“My life now is crap. I live in a s–t area, a house I don’t own. I survive off handouts and food stamps. I’ve tried for a job, but there’s no hiring. I go on the Internet, but I’ve never been taught how to use it, so it always messes up. I’m stuck. If my father was still around and was coherent, he’d help me. But that’s not the case, is it?
On his father’s health:
Muhammad Jr. says the last time he saw his father was at dad’s birthday party in Las Vegas last year, and it was like “he was in a coma.”
“Now when you see him, his hands shake and his face is cold. His expressions are numb. It isn’t him. He had always been talkative, joking around, the soul of the party. Now he doesn’t do any of that. It’s like night and day right now,” Muhammad Jr. says.
Muhammad Jr. thinks his dad, now 72, won’t make it to his next birthday — “not a chance” — and hopes the day will come when the average living sportsman’s pain will finally ebb away.
To the elder Ali’s credit, his son recalls having a relationship with his dad all through childhood, joining him at training camp, being spoiled because his dad “gave us money directly, anything we wanted” and his maternal grandparents sheltered him. His mother, Khalilah Camacho Ali, calls their 10-year marriage “the best time of my entire life.” However, Ali Jr. says the one thing missing between their relationship was time.
“Whenever we had time, he spent it with his daughters rather than me. Even in the only picture I have of all the family together, they’re all wrapped close, and I’m far out to the left. I felt like the outcast. I still do,” Muhammad Jr. sobs.”
The causes of the estrangement weren’t just his dad’s battle with Parkinson’s but also due to Lonnie, the champ’s fourth wife, Yolanda but also called Lonnie, whom he married in 1986 and who also holds power of attorney for him today.
“He slipped out my life the moment he got married to Lonnie. The trips to see me stopped immediately. She once said that they couldn’t afford to come and see me. How can a man who’s well respected in the world, bigger than Elvis, with all the money he’s made, not afford to travel?”
What I really read is a guy who seems well taken care of through childhood but never managed to fly once he left the nest. Now in his 40s, there’s no way in hell he totally floated through the late ’90s and 2000s without finding a way to learn to manipulate the ‘Net. Even if he did, that’s beside the point because I couldn’t see any of his emotional issues stopping him from getting a regular gig. Walmart is forever hiring so go put on the blue smock and feed your family.
This isn’t Ben Vereen skipping out on Will on the Fresh Prince. The bigger issue here is he made it to adulthood and expected to still be taken care of. Junior should understand that as an adult he should consider making his own way in the world, trading on the Ali name, at the worst, instead of looking at it as a hurt against him.