Boxing

Ali family denies ex-champ is failing

Image: Muhammad Ali (© Mark Zerof/USA TODAY Sports)
Muhammad Ali, 71, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1984.
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Muhammad Ali's family came out swinging Sunday to counter a British newspaper report saying "The Greatest" was near death.

After reports of his failing health surfaced, Muhammad Ali's family tweeted this photo of the champ at a Super Bowl party.

via Twitter @realALI_me

Following a report in The Sun that quoted Ali's brother, Rahman Ali, as saying the former champ, 71, is "in a bad way" the boxer's family posted a Twitter picture of Muhammad looking alert, wearing a Baltimore Ravens jersey and preparing to watch the Super Bowl, according to the Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky. — Ali's hometown. After the game, a 34-31 Ravens win, a second photo was tweeted to the same account, by Ali's son-in-law and FOXSports.com analyst Curtis Conway. That one showing Ali on a couch wearing a Ray Lewis jersey with a "Ravens #1" sign behind him.

Later, in an interview with the Associated Press, Muhammad Ali's daughter knocked down the rumors, confirming the ex-champ was at home watching the Super Bowl.

May May Ali said she talked to her father Sunday morning on the phone and he was fine.

''He's fine, in fact he was talking well this morning,'' she said in a telephone interview. ''These rumors pop up every once in a while but there's nothing to them.''

The rumors were started by the Sun report quoting Rahman.

Rahman, though, said he hadn't seen his brother since last summer and had no contact with the family.

Rahman reportedly said the former heavyweight champ can no longer speak or recognize him. He fears his brother may not survive the summer.

"He's in a bad way," he told The Sun (U.K.). "He's very sick.

"It could be months, it could be days. I don't know if he'll last the summer. He's in God's hands. We hope he gently passes away."

The Courier-Journal quoted family spokesman Bob Gunnell as saying the boxer and his wife Lonnie were at their home in Phoenix.

“He looks great,” Gunnell told the newspaper, referring to Ali. “He’s having a Super Bowl party."

FOXSports.com analyst and former NFL receiver Curtis Conway offers further evidence Ali watched the Super Bowl (and apparently enjoyed the final outcome). Conway is Ali's son-in-law.

via Twitter/@realALI_me

The newspaper quoted Gunnell as saying the picture of Ali — posing with his fists raised amid a Ravens helmet and pennant — was posted on a "little used and yet to be widely discovered personal Twitter account for Ali," realALI_me.

Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1984. His most recent public health scare came in 2011 when he was rushed to a hospital after falling unconscious, according to The Daily Mail.

Rahman Ali told The Sun that he'd rather see his brother pass away sooner than later so he can escape the slow suffering that the world has witnessed over the past two decades.

"He's going to heaven, there's no doubt," he reportedly said of Muhammad Ali. "If his funeral was tomorrow, all the statesmen of the world would turn up. He touched everyone from the rich to the poor.

"I love my brother over anybody. Of all the famous people who ever lived, he's the best. Everyone knows Muhammad Ali. He's up there with Jesus Christ."

Rahman Ali also reportedly said his brother would like to include a response to a Martin Luther King Jr. quote on his gravestone:

"I tried to love somebody, I did try to feed the hungry. I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity. The Greatest," Rahman Ali told The Mail.

Muhammad Ali's 21-year boxing career came to an end in 1981 after losing to Jamaican-Canadian fighter Trevor Berbick. He finished with 56 wins and five losses.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report

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