Legendary Ghanaian boxing hall-of-famer Professor Azumah Nelson has said the passing away of world heavy weight champion Muhammad Ali is welcome news after the boxer suffered Parkinson’s disease for over 30 years.
Azumah Nelson in an exclusive interview with TV’s Komla Klutse, said his love for the poor and discipline earned him a successful career.
Born in January 1942 as Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr, a name shared with a 19th century slavery abolitionist, the boxer changed his name to Muhammad Ali after his conversion to Islam.
The three-time world heavyweight champion had suffered from Parkinson’s disease since 1984 – three years after he retired from the sport.
The world’s ‘Greatest Boxer’ Muhammad Ali passed away at the age of 74. Speaking to Ghana’s most successful boxer of all time, Professor Barimah Azumah Nelson said both of them had met a few times, an opportunity he’d cherish for the rest of his life.
A distraught Azumah Nelson said he saw Ali as a father and friend adding that “When I heard of his death I felt sad and at the same time I felt happy because he was sick and we were all praying that he got well but I heard that he had passed away and I said that thanks be to God.
“Most of the times we met, he cracked jokes, there were times he’d ask me to jab him and when I do he’d tell me I’m not smart.”
He had shied away from public life in recent years as a result of the Parkinson’s disease but despite this, Azumah Nelson said “he loved people, had feelings for the poor and spoke for the needy, fought for the black race and he did everything that God brought him on earth to do.”
On Thursday June 2, Ali had been admitted to a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, suffering from respiratory infection.
Reports had suggested his breathing problems had been complicated by his neurological disorder, which had long impaired his speech.
“He loved people, had feelings for the poor and spoke for the needy, fought for the black race and he did everything that God brought him on earth to do” Azumah added.
Undoubtedly, one of the most successful boxers of all time, Mohammed Ali left behind 9 children, 4 wives and several grandchildren. The world and boxing fraternity will miss a man who was outspoken and says anything both in and out of the ring.