In his prime ... inspirational Muhammad Ali in 1966
Muhammad Ali’s brother says the ailing boxing icon is on the verge of death — and his final days are being marred by a bitter family feud fuelled by his wife. The former heavyweight champion, 71, is gripped by Parkinson’s and Rahman Ali fears he is in terminal decline.
But the 69-year-old said the disease is NOT the most devastating factor in Ali’s heartbreaking demise. He blames Lonnie, his wife of 26 years, for tearing the family apart and said Ali would be “mad as hell” if he knew what was going on.
He said, “The worst thing to happen is not the illness, but his wife”. In an exclusive interview, Rahman broke down in tears as he admitted he would rather his brother died now so he can escape his suffering.
Frail ... Muhammad Ali and wife Lonnie at a 2010 event to boost awareness of organ donation in Toronto
My brother can’t speak — he doesn’t recognise me. He’s in a bad way. 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.
“He told me before he got really bad that he’s in no pain. He grabbed my arm and whispered, ‘Rah, I’ve achieved everything I’ve ever wanted to accomplish. Don’t cry for me, I’m in no pain.’ It’s best he goes now. The longer he goes on, so does his suffering and misery
“He’s going to heaven, there’s no doubt. 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.
“I cry because it hurts me, it breaks my heart. I hope to see him again alive, but I can only hope.”
|Proud ... Rahman Ali with family snap|
Family ... pair with their parents in 1967
But he claims he has been cut from dad-of-nine Ali’s life and blames his fourth wife Lonnie. He now speaks to ailing Ali only by phone.
Close ... young brothers in Kentucky in 1946
“Before he got sick he told me, ‘Rahman, I’ve set up a trust fund for you after I die, you get the money.’ But she’s put a stop to it.
“If he knew what was happening and where I’m living now, he’d be as mad as hell, so angry. He’d divorce her. If he saw what was happening with his children, he’d go crazy.”
Ali’s biological children are all from previous relationships and some share Rahman’s anger. Muhammad Ali Jnr, 30, who lives in a drug-infested area of Chicago, barely sees his father and has claimed he’s been “blocked”. Rahman revealed: “I spoke to Muhammad Ali Jnr last week, as he was concerned about his dad. They’ve all tried to get in contact with him. She’ll put him on the phone sometimes, but he can only breathe on the line.
“I know him better than anyone, I can sense he’s unhappy. I can see it in his eyes. “I love him, but she stops him from loving anyone. This is the saddest thing in my life. I’m going to let God take care of it — he’s the best attorney anyone can have”.
The brothers — born Cassius and Rudolph Clay — grew up in the same bedroom of a humble two-bedroom home in Louisville, Kentucky, with dad Cassius Clay Snr and mum Odessa.
They were inseparable as youngsters and joined the local boxing league together.
Rahman — who like Ali adopted a Muslim name — also became a heavyweight fighter in his youth and has suffered from brain illness in later life.
But while his boxing great brother is worth more than £50million, Rahman and his church minister wife Caroline live off a pittance.
He revealed: “I haven’t got much money and I’m on disability benefits. I’ve had many strokes, 20 in all, and it’s affected my brain and short-term memory. The doctor told me I’m lucky to be alive — I should be dead. Every day is a blessing to me.
Their childhood home is in a state of neglect but Rahman revealed Ali wants to be buried in Louisville with a quote from civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr on his headstone.
He said: “This is his hometown. He’d want to be buried in the cemetery with mum and dad. On his tombstone, he said he wanted the Martin Luther King quote, ‘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.”’
|Falling away ... roof of house|
“When he was six, he’d tell me he was going to be world champion. He said he was going to be famous, was going to change the world, said he’d look after me, my mum and dad.
“And everything he said, he did. He achieved all his dreams.
“How the hell did he know at six that he was going to do all this? Only him and the Holy Spirit knows. He may be dying, but he’ll live on.
“You know the word ‘infinite’? That’s Ali, he’s infinite. His name will last forever.”
Wife Lonnie refused to comment last night.