Sir Michael Parkinson, one of the UK interviewers lucky enough to share significant time with Muhammad Ali during his peak, has criticized those around the three-time world champion who supported his fighting into the 1980’s.
Clearly bereft of the great attributes that took him to the heights of world title glory, Ali made a comeback against Larry Holmes in October 1980 in a bid to be champion for a fourth time.
The fight ended in a one-sided ten round stoppage loss to Holmes, who was at the peak of his powers at the time, and signalled the end of one of the greatest careers of all time.
A few months later, Ali went to England for his third and final interview with Parkinson, who noticed devastating changes in the recently-turned 39 year-old and told him so during their final chat show taping.
“It was awful. He used to dance into the studio but he sought of shuffled in. He looked sort of like a big wounded bear and his voice (just wasn’t there anymore). His eyes were dull and I didn’t like that,” Parkinson told Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch.
“I just looked at him with profound sadness that this great man, who I’d come to really like and always admired, was actually on the way out.
“When I said to him, ‘do you want to end up punch-drunk’ is what I was thinking and the world was thinking looking at him but he fought once more after that and the people who allowed him to do that have got a lot to answer for because he wasn’t capable and hadn’t been capable for four fights before that – before he arrived in my studio.
“He’d just been walloped by Larry Holmes who spent the entire fifteen rounds talking to the referee asking him to ‘stop the damn fight’ – you know because Ali wouldn’t go down. So, it was an awful and tragic end to this great, great athlete. It should have been written differently, that’s my point.
“Maybe my book is about trying to redress that and to remind people what an exceptional man he was.”
The book Parkinson referred is called, ‘Muhammad Ali: A Memoir, My views of The Greatest’ and is available now