Muhammad Ali had a knockout of a 71st birthday, celebrating with friends and family and watching a video of his “Rumble in the Jungle” win over George Foreman in Africa.
Ali’s former business manager, Gene Kilroy, said the fighter — who has long suffered from Parkinson’s — particularly enjoyed a big birthday cake in the celebration Thursday at his home in a gated community just outside Phoenix.
“It was good to see him in great spirits and looking so good,” Kilroy said. “He’s very comfortable in his Parkinson’s body. As he said many times, it could be worse.”
Kilroy said Ali’s eyes lit up as he watched the video of himself knocking out Foreman in the 1974 fight in what was then Zaire. Foreman had been a big favorite in the fight, but Ali stopped him in the eighth round in one of the great upsets in heavyweight history.
“He was all excited watching it,” said Kilroy, who was with Ali in Zaire for the fight.
Kilroy said Ali’s wife, Lonnie, her sister, Marilyn, and other family members were on hand for the birthday. Ali’s children, he said, all called to wish him well, though he is unable to talk on the phone.
“Thankfully he has Lonnie to look out for him and take such good care of him and Marilyn is devoted to him,” he said.
Also at the house was Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, a longtime friend of the former heavyweight champion, Kilroy said.
The birthday was in contrast to Ali’s 70th birthday, which was celebrated with a series of lavish events, including a party in Las Vegas that raised money for Parkinson’s research.
Kilroy said Ali likes to watch his old fights, and the interviews he did during his time as the most celebrated athlete in the world.
“I joked with him and said George Foreman called and said he wanted a rematch,” Kilroy said. “He kind of smiled.”