Muhammad Ali’s Doctor Unsure About Boxing’s Link to Parkinson’s Disease

Muhammad Ali's Doctor Unsure About Boxing's Link to Parkinson's Disease

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  • Muhammad Ali’s doctor is uncertain if there’s a link between Ali’s boxing career and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Ali also refused to have a rematch with George Foreman.
  • Foreman said he didn’t want to re-hire Dick Sadler as his trainer, which upset Ali.


The medical director of the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Centre told AFP on Nov. 2 that there is no certain link between the boxing great’s career and his Parkinson’s Disease.

The medical director of the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Centre says that there is no certain link between the boxing great’s career and his Parkinson’s Disease. 

This is what Dr. Abraham Lieberman told the AFP (via Yahoo Sports) on Nov. 2:

Muhammad Ali‘s doctor has said he cannot be certain that the boxing great’s remarkable career in the ring contributed to the former world heavyweight champion suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.

“It has long been asserted that the effect of taking punishing head blows in fights against the likes of George Foreman in the ‘Rumble in the Jungle,’ whose 40th anniversary was celebrated this week, have been a key factor in Ali suffering from Parkinson’s, a neurological condition which can cause its sufferers to shake and have problems with their balance. 

“However, plenty of Parkinson’s victims have not suffered anything like the head trauma that came Ali’s way during a 21-year ring career.

“And Dr. Abraham Lieberman, the Medical Director of the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Centre, said Sunday it was impossible to be sure regarding the root cause of American sporting hero Ali’s condition.

“‘It’s only over the last 10 years that he’s had a lot of trouble walking, with falls,’ Lieberman told BBC Radio Five Live’s Sportsweek programme.

“‘So his course has been more that of typical Parkinson’s disease. If you look at the MRI of his brain it looks pretty good but it’s very difficult to factor in what sort of role did boxing play.

“‘People ask me about this and I tell them: look at George Foreman. He boxed longer than Muhammad did, took many more blows to the head and he’s on television selling his cookware.

“‘I think that he (Ali) has typical Parkinson’s Disease. Did the boxing contribute? I don’t know. It /4/have.’

“Lieberman added: ‘He’s had Parkinson’s since about 1984, that’s almost 30 years, that’s a long time in Parkinson’s. 

“‘He’s in good spirits, he has some trouble walking but overall for having had Parkinson’s for 30 years, he’s doing OK. 

“Muhammad is now 72 so you can have a heart attack or you can have a stroke. 

“‘I don’t know that he’s more or less at risk than anyone else but anything can happen to you,’ said Lieberman of Ali, who at the height of his fame could lay claim to being the most famous man on earth.

“‘How do people with Parkinson’s disease die? They don’t die of Parkinson’s Disease, they develop trouble swallowing and they develop pneumonia and doesn’t have trouble swallowing.

“‘They fall, they bang their head — his family takes extraordinary care of him.

“‘I could have a heart attack or a stroke and die but I don’t see anything immediately that leads me to think he’s going to die in six months or die in a year. I can’t say that.'”  

On Oct. 27, former heavyweight champion George Foreman told The Ring Magazine’s Tom Gray that his refusal to re-hire Dick Sadler as his trainer for a possible rematch with Ali prevented it from ever happening:

“‘Ali called me at home in California, just prior to my fight with Ron Lyle,’ Foreman, who took 15 months off following the defeat, told ‘He said I hear you want a rematch and that’s fine, but you must re-hire Dick Sadler as trainer. I said that Sandler as trainer. I said that Sadler would never work my corner again and Ali responded, angrily, by saying there would be no rematch.’

“Dick Sadler had an undistinguished run as a professional lightweight, in the 1940s, before turning his hand to training fighters. In January 1973, under Sadler’s guidance, Foreman knocked out Frazier in two rounds, for the championship, and also brought an equally brutal conclusion to a title defense against Ken Norton a year later. 

“Foreman and Sadler, with former heavyweight legend Archie Moore in an advisory role, seemed like an unbeatable team until Zaire changed everything. In a controversial 1995 biography, entitled by George, the Hall of Fame heavyweight alleged that Sandler exhibited strange behavior prior to, and during, The Rumble in the Jungle

“Foreman said, ‘In the Ali fight Dick Sadler was the chief second. Every round he was telling me to attack, attack, attack. He was slapping my leg in the corner, urging me to get him, telling me I had Ali hurt. Not once did he ask me to stop and let Ali bring the fight to me. I was the champion that night, but it was as though he was burning me out on purpose.’

“Foreman also claimed that Sadler borrowed $25,000 from him to bribe referee Zach Clayton. The trainer allegedly said this was to dissuade the official from disqualifying Foreman for striking Ali while he was down. The young champion had been guilty of that particular infringement in prior fights and went along with it. Sadler and Clayton, both deceased, always denied participation in these events.”  

Ali retired in 1981 with a 56-5 record with 37 knockouts. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. 

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