New Orleans - Muhammad Ali's daughter scotched rumours of her father being near death on Sunday, saying he was at home watching the Super Bowl.
May May Ali was responding to a report in Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper in which Ali’s brother claimed that the family was embroiled in a bitter feud over the former heavyweight boxing champion as his life slips away.
The report was widely repeated on the internet, drawing expressions of condolences on Twitter and Facebook.
Rahman Ali said his sister-in-law, Lonnie, has cut off the sporting legend from his family and is “draining” him as his mental and physical faculties are eroded by Parkinson’s disease.
The boxer’s brother lives in poverty in a small flat in his family’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, where Muhammad Ali owns one of his three mansion homes.
He said he and his family had been barred from visiting the three-time heavyweight world champion and could only speak to him on the phone.
“We’ve all been pushed out. The only time I get to see him is at public events,” he was quoted as saying. “She and her family are draining him. It’s so sad. There’s nothing I can do, they’ve blocked us all off.”
He also claims that his brother, estimated to be worth more than £50 million, told him he had set up a trust fund for him. But his sister-in-law had “put a stop to it”.
Rahman Ali added that Ali’s nine children were also having trouble getting hold of their father.
“He said the closest they get is when Lonnie puts him on the phone, although he is only able to breathe down the line.
“If he knew what was happening and where I’m living now, he’d be as mad as hell, so angry,” Rahman Ali said.
“If he saw what was happening with his children, he’d go crazy.”
The two brothers – born Cassius and Rudolph Clay – were the only two children of poor parents, who worked as a billboard painter and a household domestic.
He said his 71-year-old brother was so crippled by Parkinson’s, the degenerative brain condition that has afflicted many ex-boxers, he might not survive until the summer.
“My brother can’t speak – he doesn’t recognise me. He’s in a bad way. He’s very sick,” he told the Daily Mail. “It could be months, it could be days.”
Ali's daughter later said she had talked to her father on Sunday morning on the phone and he was fine. She says he was watching the Super Bowl at home in Arizona, wearing a Baltimore Ravens jersey.
“He's fine, in fact he was talking well this morning,” May May said in a telephone interview. “These rumours pop up every once in a while but there's nothing to them.”
The family later posted a photo on Twitter of Ali sitting in a chair wearing a Ray Lewis T-shirt. - Daily Mail, Sapa-AP