By Frank Warren
The news from America sounds grim. Muhammad Ali, who has been suffering from Parkinson's for almost three decades now, is said to be desperately unwell and according to somefamily members is not expected to live much longer.
When 72-year-old Ali finally passes away it will be one of the saddest blows boxing has ever suffered. No sports figure has been more universally loved.
Worrying rumours began when he did not attend the Hollywood premier of a new film about his life, I Am Ali, last week. He was unable to take part in any filming although he is said to have given the project his support.
However there does seem to be an element of scaremongering, with bitter divisions within his family over the actual state of his health. His son Ali jnr and bother Rahman have both said they do not expect him to see the year out. Rahman claims Ali is so ill he can no longer speak but Muhammad's wife Lonnie, a former nurse who cares for him at their home in Arizona, and daughters Maryum and Hana insist he continues to live "a full and beautiful life."
New of Ali's decline coincidentally comes at a time when two of his former same-generation opponents are bothhospitalised. Britain's Joe Bugner, 64 is recovering from a heart attack in Queensland, Australia, where he now lives and 61-year-old Leon Spinks, who sensationally if briefly, took Ali's world heavyweight title in 1978, has twice undergone emergency stomach surgery in Las Vegas.
It was his fiercest old foe, Joe Frazier, who once declared when Ali showed no signs of retiring: "The trouble with him is that he doesn't know how to die."
The irony is that, ailing as he is, Ali has managed to outlive most of the 53 opponents he faced in his 61 fights, not least Smokin' Joe himself.
Moreover a fistful of opponents met brutal endings, like Sonny Liston. It was said Sonny died from a drugs overdose but many in boxing believe he was bumped off by Mafia loan sharks who had hired him to be one of their debt collectors.
Another Ali opponent to die violently was the Argentinean Oscar Bonavena, shot dead outside a Buenos Aires brothel.
Trevor Berbick, the last man to fight, and beat, Ali in 1981, was clubbed to death at a church in Jamaica by his nephew, Harold.
Sonny Banks, the first man to knock down Ali, died three days after suffering head injuries in a bout with Leotis Martin in Philadelphia. Zora Folley died at the age of 41 in Tucson after striking his head on the edge of a swimming pool.
Others Ali has outlasted include Floyd Patterson, Ken Norton, Jerry Quarry, Cleveland Williams, Archie Moore, Buster Mathis, Jimmy Young.Jimmy Ellis and of course, his great pal, Henry Cooper.
My own sources tell me Ali's condition is now more serious than it has ever been and I pray The Greatest, and who so revolutionised boxing, remains well enough to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the most bizarre fight in history – his Rumble in the Jungle with George Forman- at the end of the month.
One young heavyweight with the world at his fists is Anthony Joshua. I am a fan of the personable Olympic gold medallist who certainly looks the business. But let's not get too carried away just yet..
The ancient Russian he roughed up, Denis Bahktov, although well past his sell-by date, was a reasonable opponent, the sort you'd expect him to be fighting at this stage of his career.
Big Josh can certainly dish it out, but can he take it? What alarms me is that he seems so easy to hit. He is open to a right hand and if it was a fighter I was involved with it would be something I'd be taking up with his trainer.
Without being a particularly concussive puncher Joshua has slam-bammed his way past nine opponents in double quick time but to suggest he'll be ready for a world title shot next year is plain stupid. He needs time to mature and better class opponents to test his stamina and chin.
Whether 39-year-old warhorse Michael Sprott, who is next up, can provide a more substantial examination is debatable.
Sky Sports' boss Barney Francis has allegedly turned boxing matchmaker by personally calling George Groves and David Haye and asking them to feature on the Nathan Cleverly v Tony Bellew rematch in Liverpool next month.
There has been a public outcry about Sky's decision to put the main-event 10-round non-title fight on Box Office - when the first clash in 2011 was for the WBO World title on then free-to-air BoxNation.
With the inclusion of Groves or Haye, Francis hopes it will boost an otherwise average card that also features James DeGale, Scott Quigg, Jamie McDonnell and Anthony Joshua.
Condolences to Tyson Fury, whose uncle Hugh, his first trainer, has passed away aged only 50. Hugh's illness, caused by complications following recent routine surgery, was the reason Tyson pulled out of a previous date with Dereck Chisora.
And contrary to some mischievous internet gossip I can confirm that the rescheduled Fury-Chisora fight, together with another sizzling domestic dust-up between Billy Joe Saunders and Chris Eubank jnr, will definitely go ahead at London's ExCel on 29 November. Both scraps, to be screened live by BoxNation, are firmly signed and sealed.
Our Armed Forces battle it out for charity tonight at the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane in support of the national charity DEBRA, who I'm a Vice President of.
It's a very special occasion as it's the 10th Anniversary of the DEBRA Fight Night that has so far raised well over £2m for the fight against Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB)- a painful genetic skin blistering condition.
And this evening is the biggest event so far with DEBRA's Royal Patron, HRH The Countess of Wessex in attendance with host of celebrities as they watch the British Armed Forces fight it out to see who is the "Best of British".
Watch the action live and exclusive on BoxNation from 9pm.
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