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Muhammad Ali

Later Years

Although this moment might have been a good time to retire, Ali soldiered on. In 1978 Leon Spinks took the title away, but later that year Ali reclaimed it, making him a three-times champion. Finally, on June 26, 1979, Ali retired from professional boxing at the age of 37. His retirement did not last long. Ali had grown used to a very lavish and lifestyle and within a few years his fortune had dwindled. So in 1980 Ali returned to the ring, battling Larry Holmes for the World Boxing Council title with a guaranteed purse of $8 million. Holmes won a technical knockout in the eleventh round. A year later, Ali lost to Trevor Burdick. This time he retired for good, at the age of 40.

By this time, Ali was suffering from Parkinson's Disease. After the Holmes fight, people had noticed a change in Ali's health. At first he'd been misdiagnosed with a thyroid condition, but in 1982, the Parkinson's diagnosis was confirmed by medical tests. Doctors speculated that he might have contracted the illness from too many blows to the head. It was a sad revelation for Ali, but he was grateful that the disease was not contagious, so he could continue to have contact with his many fans throughout the world.

Ali's other interests have included painting, originally inspired by his father, and in 1979 he put on a oneman show of his works. He has also been called upon to perform diplomatic missions—in 1980, he toured Africa in an attempt to drum up support for President Carter's boycott of the Moscow Olympics. In 1985 he traveled to Lebanon in an unsuccessful attempt to secure the release of U.S. hostages, and in 1990 he traveled to Baghdad, Iraq, on a similar mission, this time successfully. In 1996, he was chosen to light the torch at the Atlanta Olympics, after carrying it for the last lap.

With so much focus on his boxing career and the pressures of his public life, Ali has not always had the calmest private life. He has been divorced three times, and he currently lives with his fourth wife, Lonnie. Much to her father's displeasure, his daughter Leila has followed Ali's footsteps into the boxing ring.

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Famous Sports StarsBoxingMuhammad Ali Biography - A Stolen Bicycle, The Louisville Lip, A Controversial Champ, In And Out Of The Wilderness - SELECTED WRITINGS BY ALI: