Michael Parkinson recalls feeling sorry for Muhammad Ali: I wondered what was wrong

Michael Parkinson recalls feeling sorry for Muhammad Ali: I wondered what was wrong

08/28/2021

Michael Parkinson admits he watches his old clips

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Journalist Michael Parkinson has told how he grew to “feel sorry” for professional boxer Muhammad Ali when interviewing him for the third and final time on his show in 1981. The star stated his third and most subdued meeting with the American sportsman was dramatically different to the first and he tried to “work out what was wrong” with the man who he claimed was different with him 10 years earlier.

What was wrong was simply the fact that it was the beginnings of the illness that killed him

Michael Parkinson

Michael said: “The last time 10 years later when he’d [Ali] been through all kinds of hell and back he came into the studio he was an uncertain and diminished man.

“And I felt, for the first time in my life, I felt sorry for him.

“I really did,” the TV personality added.

Cutting back to the pair’s 1981 meeting, the boxer sat passively while answering Michael’s questions.

Ali said: “I’m getting old now.

“Do you feel old?” asked Michael.

“I feel like I’m about 73, your age,” he retorted.

Back in the studio, Michael revealed that he was concerned for the man he initially butted heads with in their first fiery interview in 1971.

Michael said: “It was a different kind of interview, he didn’t try to insult me, I didn’t try to provoke him too much, I just tried to find out what was wrong.

“What was wrong was simply the fact that it was the beginnings of the illness that killed him in the end.

He continued: “And that was the saddest thing of all.

“There are certain people who you can’t imagine dying, he was one,” confessed Michael.

The heavyweight champion died in 2016 following a 36-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.

The progressive neurological condition slowly robbed him of both his verbal and physical dexterity.

The journalist also looked back on a previous meeting with the boxer.

Michael relayed his initial thoughts on laying eyes on the sportsman, he said: “What a figure, what a personality.

“I’ve seen some beautiful men in my time but he was gorgeous.

“Beautiful – but the gibberish he talked about was extraordinary,” he added.

During BBC show Parkinson at 50 the star discussed his varied career with his son and producer, Mike.

Michael also looked back on his time interviewing The Beatles legend John Lennon and Yoko Ono, as well as Joan Rivers and Helen Mirren.

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