Louisville: Muhammad Ali and his family never seriously considered donating the boxing great’s brain for research, according to the doctor who treated him. “Not really,” was Dr. Abe Lieberman’s answer when he was asked Monday if submitting the brain for research was discussed. Lieberman said he didn’t think boxing contributed to Ali’s contraction of Parkinson’s disease but he couldn’t be “a hundred percent” certain. The doctor spoke at a news conference at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. Lieberman was among those who diagnosed Ali in 1984.
The doctor said he believes Ali had the disease earlier, when he fought Larry Holmes in 1980. Ali thought the Holmes fight did serious damage. In an interview, Ali said that if he had known “Holmes was going to whip me and damage my brain, I would not have fought him. But losing to Holmes and being sick are not important in God’s world.” Asked Monday if Ali blamed boxing for the disease, Lieberman said the fighter didn’t think that way. He said Ali never regretted his boxing career and, as a devout Muslim, believed it was God’s will that he experience the illness and help others to combat it.
The day before his star-studded funeral, members of Muhammad Ali’s Islamic faith will get their chance to say a traditional goodbye to the Champ. Bob Gunnell, a spokesman for Ali’s family, announced Monday that a Jenazah, a traditional Muslim funeral service, will be held at Freedom Hall at noon Thursday. It will be open to all. They chose the venue both because it seats 18,000 and because it holds historical significance for the hometown hero. Ali fought, and won, his first professional fight there in 1960.
Gunnell said Ali, who converted to the Islamic faith in the 1960s, started planning his own funeral nearly a decade ago. Gunnell said he wanted his services “to reflect his life and how he lived” with a heart open to people of all colors and creeds. The president of Turkey and king of Jordan joined the long line of world leaders, religious figures and superstars set to speak at Muhammad Ali’s funeral Friday. Ali family spokesman Bob Gunnell announced funeral details at a news conference Monday.
California imam and scholar Zaid Shakir will preside over the service at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville. Speaking at the funeral will be representatives of multiple faiths, including Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Mormonism and Catholicism. They will be followed by Ali’s wife, Lonnie Ali; daughter Maryum Ali; actor Billy Crystal; sportscaster Bryant Gumbel; Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and King Abdullah II of Jordan. President Bill Clinton will deliver a eulogy. The Dalai Lama was invited, but sent regrets that he will be unable to attend.