While his more than 29-year battle with Parkinson’s Disease has transformed Muhammad Ali, it has given him something too – respect as a different type of fighter.
The graceful boxer who once floated in the ring merely shuffled when he walked.
His once-fiery, sometimes-poetic words gave way mostly to public silence.
But while his more than 29-year battle with Parkinson’s disease transformed Ali, it gave him something too — respect as a different type of fighter, one who persevered and stayed visible despite his debilitating illness.
Actions such as lighting the Olympic torch with a shaking hand in 1996 inspired many others with Parkinson’s to live their lives fully.
One is John Baumann, a Louisville lawyer who admires Ali as a boxer, and more than a decade ago got his autograph during a chance meeting at Louisville International Airport. Then, like Ali, he was stricken with Parkinson’s in 2003, in the prime of life.
He decided to keep working as an attorney and teaching at the University of Louisville, wrote a book published in 2011 called “Decide Success” and became a motivational speaker.
“I said I’m not going to stop my world. Muhammad Ali does that too,” said Baumann, who has two children and recently remarried. When times get difficult, “it’s focus or fold, as they say in football. … Muhammad Ali is a focus person. He doesn’t complain. He doesn’t give up.”
Ali’s status brought attention to Parkinson’s and money for research and treatment. Along with actor Michael J. Fox, Ali was a public face of the progressive neurological condition that affects up to 1.5 million Americans and about 12,000 Kentuckians.