Rahaman Ali (76) fought on the undercard of some of Muhammad Ali’s most famous fights and had a ringside ticket for his older brother’s extraordinary life.
So it’s safe to say that no one was closer to Muhammad Ali than Rahaman, The Greatest’s younger and only sibling, training partner, and best friend. The Ali brothers went from sharing a bedroom in a modest home on Louisville’s Grand Avenue to sharing unbelievable moments that became part of sports history and our collective memory.
Q: Rahaman, what was it like growing up with Muhammad Ali?
RA: “My brother and I had a lot of fun playing and enjoying our early years in Louisville. We had friends who lived on our block and around the corner from us. My brother would tease dogs that we would see walking in the street. He would say to me, Rudy watch what this dog does when I make this loud sound with my voice. And the dogs would all take off running really fast.
“We were as close as two brothers could be. I followed him everywhere. I travelled the world with him. Muhammad was a sweet, kind loving man. He loved people. And I had his back.”
Q: February 25, 1964, was a very special day for the Ali brothers. You made your pro debut, and Muhammad became the heavyweight champion of the world. Can you take us back to that day?
RA: “He Told Me When We first Took Up Boxing That He Would Someday Become The Champion Of The World …”
“The boxing ring quickly became full of people shouting with joy and excitement that Muhammad was now the heavyweight champion of the world. My brother’s dream had come true. And it felt awesome for me to witness this feat. When we first took up boxing, he told me that he would someday become the champion of the world, and he just did that.
“Sonny Liston was a big hard-hitting monster, but I never doubted my brother’s ability. I was also very excited about winning my debut over Chip Johnson on the undercard. Especially when I learned that my brother had left his dressing room and entered the arena to watch my fight.”
Q: Did you ever talk with Muhammad about how unbelievable your lives had become?
RA: “Yes. As I stated, he always told me when we were boys that he would become the heavyweight champion, and also he would say that he would become famous. I believed in him, although some others would laugh.
“I also remember when we were growing up my brother would always say to me that when he became a famous man, he would always help poor people in the world. And I witnessed firsthand countless compassion and my brother’s willingness to help those in need.”
Q: Was there a sense of ‘his success is my success’ because you focused on his career instead of your own?
RA: “I Was Like A Bodyguard To Him, His Protector, His Best Friend & Training Partner”
“Yes, exactly. When I moved from home to Miami to be with my brother my job was to help him prepare for the fights and aim of him becoming the heavyweight champion.
“I spent many rounds sparring my brother, many folks who witnessed this said I was, perhaps, his best sparring partner. Our sparring sessions were intense.
“I was a good boxer, but I wanted to eventually focus on my brother and help prepare him. So, his success was my success as well.”
Q: How important do you think you were to your brother’s success?
RA: “He wanted me to be with him and share the success. I was like a bodyguard to him, his protector, his best friend, and training partner and constant companion. I was one of the inner circle of people. He trusted me.
“He also told me to retire from the ring saying I did not need to fight anymore and that he would always take care of me.”
Q: “In the World Boxing Super Series, as you know, elite boxers are questing for the Muhammad Ali Trophy – we travel the world, and wherever we come people have a relationship with your brother as an idol, a hero, a role model. Many fighters in the tournament tell they had Ali as an idol growing up …”
RA: “It’s Great To See How Much He Is Idolised By Many Folks From All Over The World.”
“He is the greatest of all time. Loved by people all over. His accomplishments in the boxing world stand with or above all of the other boxing legends. He brought unprecedented grace and speed to the ring. And his charm and wit forever changed what the public expected a champion to be. He is a rare, uniquely talented individual.
“After retiring from boxing my brother began living a peaceful life with his family. It’s great to see how much he is idolised by many folks from all over the world.”
Q: You had a unique front-row perspective on one of the most iconic figures of the last century. Why do you think Muhammad Ali still has such a big impact and remains a global figure in today’s world?
RA: “Muhammad was more than a boxer, he fought for people and loved people. I have come to realise he was the chosen one to help unite people in the world.”
Q: What do think are the most important lessons to learn from your brother?
RA: “He preached his religion and stood up for his beliefs with great conviction. The important thing that people can learn from my brother is to believe in yourself, be kind to people, and strive for greatness in whatever you decide to do in life.”
Q: Do you see any fighters or athletes in any sport that remind you of your brother?
RA: “Not really. My brother was a one-of-a-kind.”
Rahaman Ali retired from competing as a heavyweight himself in 1972, with a record of fourteen wins, three losses, and one draw. He still lives in Louisville, Kentucky.
His book, ‘My Brother, Muhammad Ali’ – a fascinating perspective on The Greatest – can be ordered online from rockbrashpromotions.com.
The Muhammad Ali Trophy:
The Muhammad Ali Trophy is also known as the Greatest Prize in Boxing and it is being awarded to the winner of each weight class of the World Boxing Super Series. Ali gave his blessings to the WBSS and agreed to give his name to its prize created by the late world-renowned artist Silvio Gazzaniga who also designed the iconic FIFA World Cup Trophy.
Ali Trophy winners:
Season I: Aleksandr Usyk (Cruiserweight), Callum Smith (Super-Middle-weight)
Season II: Josh Taylor (Super-Lightweight), Naoya Inoue (Bantamweight), Mairis Briedis (Cruiserweight)