In 1984, a 42-year-old Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, according to The Guardian. By then, he no longer floated like a butterfly. The sting you felt from seeing him didn’t from a bee but from that sadness welling in your eyes as you watched the slow-motion twilight of a boxing idol. But the philosophical Ali saw it differently. That year, he spoke at a Houston news conference, per the Associated Press, and said, “What I suffered physically was worth what I’ve accomplished in life. A man who is not courageous enough to take risks will never accomplish anything in life.”
Risk and reward
Ali didn’t just risk his physical health; he risked everything he fought to accomplish because he thought it was more important to fight the good fight outside the ring. As the heavyweight champion of the world, Ali was treated like an enemy in America after he not only defied the Vietnam draft but showed up in person to refuse his military induction. He was stripped of his title and lost the right to fight for three years. But as The Greatest explained, “My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America.”
Ali’s words were eloquent, but his actions spoke whole books of poetry. Even as Parkinson’s waged war against his body, he kept fighting and taking jabs at the injustices he saw in society. As Ali remarked in 1984, “People say I talk so slow today. That’s no surprise. I calculated I’ve taken 29,000 punches. But I earned $57 million and I saved half of it. So I took a few hard knocks. Do you know how many black men are killed every year by guns and knives without a penny to their names? I may talk slow, but my mind is OK.” Eventually, he lost the ability to talk. Per USA Today, in 2016, he died of sepsis. According to Celebrity Net Worth, at the time of his passing he had a net worth of $50 million.
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