An exclusive interview by British tabloid The Sun with former heavyweight world champion Muhammad Ali’s younger brother Rahman has led to widespread speculation that the much loved, long-ailing boxing icon “could be dead within days.”
But should Ali’s fans around the world be worried? Or might this just be a case of Rahman Ali – a former boxer himself – pulling an Ali “rope-a-dope” on the international media?
Might it just be an over enthusiastic, poorly poised editor’s sensationalist swipe at a big headline?
Or might this even be a ploy of “The Greatest” himself, cunningly orchestrated with the aid of his brother and wife Lonnie?
Might The Sun article ultimately be revealed as an Ali family dancing butterfly, stinging bee strategy?
Brother Rahman’s words seem genuine enough. According to the article, published on Feb. 3, that has come out of his interview with The Sun, he even shed tears as he described his brother’s condition.
“My brother can’t speak — he doesn’t recognize me. He’s in a bad way. He’s very sick”.
“It could be months, it could be days. I don’t know if he’ll last the summer. He’s in God’s hands. We hope he gently passes away,” reads The Sun’s take on Rahman’s words.
But this assessment contrasts sharply with a statement subsequently issued by Ali’s family through spokesperson Bob Gunnel.
According to The Toronto Sun, quoting the Louisville, Kentucky based Courier-Journal, the family posted a photo on Twitter of Ali in a Ravens jersey getting ready to watch the Super Bowl.
Coincidentally, that game was also spiced-up by some sibling rivalry drama, as brothers John and Jim Harbaugh, coaches of the Baitimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers teams went up against each other.
No reports seen by this writer so far mention which team Ali's brother backed - or even if he, like Ali's wife, is a football fan.
“He and his wife, Lonnie, were at home in Phoenix on Sunday watching the game,” Gunnell told the Courier-Journal.
Whatever the truth of the situation, what seems undeniable is that all may not be right with the Ali estate at present.
Rahman's claim that the champ’s wife is blocking his and other relatives’ access to Ali could either be an understatement or exaggeration.
The state of the “official website” www.ali.com certainly raises questions - it appears not to have been updated since Oct. 20, 2011.
Is this just a "thrilla in the media" or a "rumble in the news jungle"?
Is this a case of the British news media boxng itself into a bloody nose?