Did “The Greatest” Die A Broke Man? (8min read)

June 14, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ June News

Muhammad Ali, the magnificent heavyweight champion whose fast fists and irrepressible personality transcended sports and captivated the world, has died according to a statement released by his family. He was 74.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

The greatest boxer who ever lived, one of the greatest athletes of all-time, known to the world as “The Greatest”, Muhammad Ali was a wizard in the ring, but he was a muggle when it came to finances.

Muhammad Ali used to pay out $64,000 a month in expenses to his ever expanding family to atone for his philandering ways, according to one of his closest friends.

Tim Shanahan said that the boxer – who died on Friday aged 74 – felt guilty about his affairs and having two children out of wedlock so 'never said no' when relatives asked him for cash.  He said that despite being a hero in the the ring, 'the world's greatest fighter hated confrontation' so would empty his wallet when asked – even for a stranger.  Shanahan writes that Ali's cronies took full advantage of this and plundered his bank account while charging onlookers $5 to see him train and selling t-shirts with his face on them.



They also spent $2.5 million that should have gone to pay his taxes and looted $21 million from a sports company set up in his name.  According to Shanahan, Ali may have called himself The Greatest – but he was ripped off his whole life like so many other boxing champions.  Estimates for Ali's total career earnings range from $40 million to $82 million, but in his memoir Shanahan raises questions over how much will be left after those close to him have feasted on his fortune for decades.

Ali was married four times and had seven daughters and two sons – one of them by adoption – though others are likely to now claim he was their father to try to get a slice of what remains of his wealth.  In 'Running with the Champ: My Forty Year Friendship with Muhammad Ali', Shanahan lays out the litany of bad decisions that Ali was advised on in the early stages of his career when the cash first began to pour in.

He says that Ali's investments were mostly 'disasters' and included ill-fated ventures such as Champ Burger, a chain of restaurants, a Mr. Champ soda and a number of botched movie deals. 

Ali was convinced to open up Ali's Trolley chicken and burgers restaurant in Hyde Park, the Chicago neighborhood where he lived, but it closed after 18 months.  Ali gave $40,000 to a friend called Harold Smith to set up Muhammad Ali Professional Sports Inc. which was supposed to recruit aspiring athletes from poor areas. 



Years later Ali had a knock on the door from the FBI who wanted to speak to him about $21 million that was missing from its accounts.  Smith

eventually served five years in a federal prison.  Another associate was accused of repeatedly conning Ali into ventures that failed, forging his signature on checks and costing him thousands of dollars.  The $64,000 a month Ali spent on expenses for his family was for their car payments, mortgages and insurance and was all on top of his own bills, which may well have run even higher.  Shanahan writes that one of his jobs for Ali was to make a few trips a week to Western Union with a pile of cash to wire money to the 'growing list of people that asked him for help'.

But it was the exploitation by Ali's inner circle which grated Shanahan the most and it was was most apparent at Deer Lake near Chicago, Ali's training camp where he prepared for most of his fights.





Shanahan, a medical instrument salesman, had got to know Ali in 1975 through a sports charity in the Midwestern city. By that time Ali was Heavyweight Champion of the World.

The two men hit it off and liked going on runs together, which was a crucial part of the boxer's training. Gradually Shanahan became a close friend and used to go over Ali's house for home cooked meals and to watch films together.

Later on Shanahan claims members of the inner circle began 'actively ripping him off' and and writes that he was 'disgusted' to see the boxer's so-called friends submitting bogus receipts for meals, clothes and drinks.

According to the book Ali once told Shanahan, who is white: 'I never had any trouble with my white brothers around me. It's always my black brothers who try and screw me'.  Shanahan says that Ali had so many problems with money because he 'didn't want to admit he had made a bad judgement of someone's character'.

'He didn't see what was happening around him as "bad behavior" instead he felt he was making life better for other people and giving the gift of happiness. And I think he felt he was atoning for his bad behavior, like having two daughters out of wedlock'.

Shanahan says that Ali used to tell him: 'Who am I to judge anyone else?'

Other times he would say that Allah was keeping a 'tally sheet' and that he wanted to put more good points on it than bad.

Ali suffered for years from Parkinson's disease, which ravaged his body but could never dim his larger-than-life presence. He was hospitalized early June 2016 due to respiratory issues.  A towering figure in his prime, he still traveled and made appearances in his later years despite being muted by the thousands of punches he took during his remarkable career.  He beat the invincible Sonny Liston, fought a string of thrilling fights with Joe Frazier and stopped George Foreman in the "Rumble in the Jungle" during a career that made him perhaps the most recognized person in the world.