NEW YORK – Laila Ali believes that Parkinson’s disease finally is getting the best of her father, former world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali.

Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome in 1985, four years after his last match.

For years, Ali has been troubled by tremors brought on by the disease and his speech was reduced to a whisper.

But Laila, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times published on Wednesday, said her 63-year-old father’s condition has gotten worse.

“I feel like the disease is progressing,” Laila said. “Different things start happening as you get older. I have noticed a change in him, something that goes along with the Parkinson’s. It’s painful for me because I would love to sit down and talk to my dad about the way he used to be when he was my age, when he was in his prime because we are so much alike. I can’t really do that. I can’t share a lot of things with him.”

She said her father feels like he’s trapped inside his body. “He can think,” she said. “He has things he wants to say, but his lips sometimes just don’t move to get it out.”

Laila, who was 8 years old when Ali divorced her mother, Veronica Porche, has grown closer to her father since starting her professional boxing career six years ago. Her father has attended a handful of her 21 professional bouts and he is no longer able to critique her work.

“We don’t talk about boxing,” she said. “He might come to a fight and say, “You’re bad.’ But he was never one to talk much boxing with us.

“That was not him. And he doesn’t talk much these days anyway. It takes him too much energy to talk. He has good days and bad days. He’s taking a lot of different medications. Sometimes his speech is so slurred you can’t hardly understand him. But he definitely knows what’s going on. That’s for sure. He sees everything.”

One of Ali’s last public appearances was at Laila’s match on the undercard of Mike Tyson-Kevin McBride in Washington, D.C., in June.

He was moving slowly and with assistance, but he didn’t appear to be as troubled with tremors as he had been in the past.

Laila Ali said her father is taking life easy.

“He likes doing simple things,” she said. “He loves to draw, he likes to color, he likes to clip pictures out of magazines. And he likes to do magic tricks.

“It doesn’t take a whole lot to keep him entertained. But his attention span is very short when the subject is something more than that. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself, so it’s hard to feel sorry for him.”


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