You know, it’s funny sometimes, life that is.
I’ve been writing about boxing for nearly seven years now but it never ceases to amaze me how things out of the blew can still come along and surprise me every once in a while.
Recently upon checking my usual daily emails one came through that almost made me spit out my coffee.
It’s not often that you get reached out to with an opportunity to speak to the greatest of all time Muhammad Ali’s very own flesh and blood.
On his 77th birthday anniversary, I had the opportunity and honor to catch up with his two daughters Maryum and Hana Ali who were speaking from LA at the amazing new Muhammad Ali Exhibition at the Beverly Center.
Upon beginning our cross-Atlantic phone conversation on the phone, I was almost instantly energised by the two ladies’ passion and charisma when Maryum began by enthusing:
“Literally we just got off the punching bag — we’re literally pumped!”
You could almost hear their father come through the phone. I asked the two did they have any interest in boxing to which Hana said:
“I watch MMA because my husband is an MMA fighter. I watch some boxing too!”
On who of the modern heavyweights they knew about in today’s times — Maryum said:
“I’ve seen Anthony Joshua fight! He’s a great boxer. I watched a documentary about him. He seems like a really nice, humble man.”
To which Hana added:
“I think Anthony Joshua reminds me of daddy the most out of the modern heavyweights.”
Maryum then shouted:
“He’s handsome like daddy!”
To which Hana laughed in response:
“May May’s not married — I am!”
As our chat opened up, I wanted to get their opinion on how their dad would have felt about American and Western culture in recent years, particularly since the start of the Donald Trump Presidency.
“It’s interesting, there are a lot of things in this day and age that are very similar to the 50’s and 60’s. He (my father) was very vocal on human rights. I think that he actually spoke for himself already because of the similarities you have. He was more for all are men created equal and people should have their human rights.”
“Our father always stuck up for the underdog and never shied down on giving his opinion.”
Maryum continued on the subject to say:
“Before he passed he actually made a statement about Trump’s Muslim ban. My father is a Muslim and he did stand up against Islamophobia in this country. He definitely would have been against the mistreatment of Latinos and Hispanics at the border and what’s going on at the (Southern US) border. He loved children and he believed in human decency. Also, I think he definitely would have had a problem with NFL players being called derogatory names because they took a stand against the police brutality in this country.”
“Any and all people of any race or creed or religion that are being treated unjustly — he would always stand up for and that’s really the legacy of my father.”
Maryum finished off by saying:
“He would also say — don’t stress out. I think Islam was a catalyst for his behaviour. A lot of times that is taken out of the books and the articles is that he was as a Muslim and that he was a servant of God. He believed in human rights first and respect for all people of all religions and freedom of speech and religions.”
As our conversation continued I then asked more about his boxing career and specifically, Joe Frazier. I wanted to know more about their thoughts on their father and his rival’s relationship during his boxing career and towards the end when they had a falling out.
Hana told me:
“Okay, so my father had nothing against Joe Frazier. He made audio recordings in the 1970’s home audio recording and he actually called Joe Frazier to wish him happy a Christmas — so there’s something that some people might not know.”
“The most important message here is to be clear that was a one sided rivalry on Joe’s side. My father never held grudges with anyone. He loved and forgave everyone.”
As our international call came towards an end I asked that if there was one message for humanity that Muhammad Ali had — what did they think it was.
“I think it would be that life is a test. We’re tested with wealth. We’re tested with poverty. We’re tested with illness. We’re tested with fortune and misfortune. Again, I’ll go back to his faith because that’s who he was. He wasn’t the perfect man but he really believed what God gave him in life to use it to his best ability.”
“Most importantly to worship a creator and pass the test of life that your creator gave you. To me, that would be the ultimate philosophy of my father. My father always talked about his faults. He felt guilty about certain things he did. Look at my father’s life — he was really conscious about his evolution as a man. As a father he was that way. He never acted like he was perfect. I would say the big thing for him was to be subservient to who created you.”
On how he lived that message during his life Hana concluded:
“The way he did that in everyday life was that he gave back. He loved fans. He loved people like the air he breathed. He was very charitable. He would take time to talk to people and make them feel good. He would walk the streets with them. He brought homeless families home to live in our extra bedrooms sometimes because he believed it was a sin for people to live on the streets when there were spare rooms in our home.”
All in all, an amazing conversation on a man who will never, ever be forgotten about in human history.
For anyone in LA up until Feb 2nd wishing to see his exhibition at the Beverly Center in LA it will be open to the general public up until around this date.
Rest in peace ‘The Greatest’.
Photo credit: Getty Images / Jerod Harris