By Robert Brizel, Head RCM Boxing Correspondent
Muhammad Ali Jr. was never a boxer. Now 41 years old, the married father of two lives on food stamps in squalid poverty in the dangerous West Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. Born in 1972 in Philadelphia to Muhammad Ali and his second wife Belinda Boyd, he was five years old when his father remarried Veronica Porsche. Distanced from the father he never really knew that well due to his father’s Parkinson’s and his father’s fourth wife Lonnie, Ali Jr. is destitute.
Much is made of boxing luminaries. Ali was wise enough to provide for his children and family when he was still relatively coherent. Beneath the Muhammad Ali public façade, what is not well known about Ali is what happened to his progeny. Cassius Clay divorced his first wife, cocktail waitress SonjiRoi, who objected to his attempts to impose Muslim dress codes on her, on January 10, 1966.
As Muhammad Ali, Ali married 17 year old Belinda Boyd on August 17, 1967, and changed her name to Khalilah Ali. They had four children: daughter Maryum in 1968; twin daughters Jamilla and Rasheeda in 1970; and his only son, Muhammad Ali Jr., in 1972. Ali cheated with veronica Orsche, a poster girl who had promoted the Rumble in the Jungle fightin Zaire with George Foreman. By the time Ali had divorced Khalilah and married Porsche, they already had a baby girl named Hana, and Veronica was pregnant with Laila, another daughter. By 1986, Muhammad Ali had divorced for the third time. In November 1986, Ali married a Louisville childhood friend, Lonnie Ali, who he used to babysit for. Muhammad and Lonnie adopted a son named Asaad. Muhammad has two other daughters, Miya and Khaliah, form extramarital affairs. So Ali has seven children in all.
On November 19, 2005, the $60 million nonprofit Muhammad Ali Center opened in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. Ali has a net worth of over $50 million dollars. Entertainment and licensing firm CKX paid Ali $50 million in cash in exchange for selling80 percent interest of his name and likeness. “The relationship with CKX will help guarantee that, for generations to come, people of all nations will understand my beliefs and my purpose,” Ali said in a prepared statement. As part of the agreement, Ali maintains 20 percent control of the newly formed company G.O.A.T. LLC, an acronym for ‘The Greatest of All Time’. Voted Athlete of the Century by Sports Illustrated, and recognizable with New York Yankees great Babe Ruth by 97% of the American public, Ali’s estate, which his fourth wife Lonnie could inherit, continues to rake in the dough.
Unable to see or speak to his famous father anymore, Muhammad Ali Jr., his wife Shaakira, and two young daughters Ameera, 6, and Shakera, 5, relies on his day-to-day living survival on food stamps and a charity shelter which gives handouts.
Muhammad Ali earned over $100 million in his career, but before he succumbs to the ravages of Parkinson’s disease, there is a worse fate, a grim reality. His son, Muhammad Ali Jr., sheltered for years and prevented from a normal childhood and developing into a normal, his wife and two children are starving and barely alive in their two bedroom apartment in never never land, the worst part of Chicago, Illinois. For a child of the greatest to be denied a childhood with a father, and wind up like this, Muhammad Ali is a hero to me to longer. Like the honorable Elijah Wallace Muhammad, Ali’s irresponsible womanizing had emotional consequences. To me, Muhammad Ali Jr. is an American tragedy, a modern day version of the Charles Lindbergh baby tragedy. To me, Muhammad Ali, is not a hero, and ‘The Greatest’ is no more.
It should be noted that other famous boxing sons, such as Rocky Marciano Jr., Joe Louis Jr., Archie Moore Jr. and Alexis Arguello Jr. are still alive, and did find their own paths outside of boxing. Floyd Mayweather Jr., Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Anthony Mundine are fine examples of male children became noted boxers like their fathers. Others, like Pipino Cuevas Jr., Victor Dario Galindez, Ronald Hearns, Aaron Pryor Jr. and Carlos DeLeon Jr., pursued professional boxing careers which wound up as undistinguished.