"He was complicated, we shouldn't turn him into some kind of angel": Jonathan Eig on Muhammad Ali

The author discusses allegations made against the former Heavyweight champ

BY Jason Brennan 13:01 Tuesday 19 December 2017, 13:01 19 Dec 2017

Jonathan Eig's latest book, Muhammad Ali: A Life, has revealed a series of controversial allegations against the former Heavyweight champ.

The New York Times bestseller states that at numerous times both during and after his career, Ali was violent towards the women in his life.

"I don't know if I'd say it was a regular occurrence, but his second wife (Belinda Boyd) told me of a couple of instances where she was hit, and his third wife (Veronica Porché Ali) told me that she was not surprised to hear that. That Ali, especially before fights, could become very uptight and lash out at the women around him.

"It was definitely something that was hard for me to hear, given that I grew up a fan of this guy, and that behaviour was really difficult for me to believe and accept. But it's out there. It's part of what these women testified to and we have to assume that they're telling the truth".

Eig's book makes reference to numerous accounts of Ali's infidelity, but the most startling revelation comes in the form of the account of Temica William's relationship with Ali, which she claimed led to him fathering her son, and that she was a minor when their relationship began.

"It was reported a little bit at the time when the suit was filed in the United States, publications mentioned it, but the case was dismissed because of the statute of limitations so it was never fully explored, and Temica Williams is now deceased so I was not able to interview her. We don't know for certain whether the child in question really was Ali's. 

"If Ali was involved with a girl who was a minor it's obviously beyond disturbing, it's criminal and it raises very unsightly questions".

While these stories have dominated the headlines surrounding the 600-page book, Eig's biography is an all-encompassing, comprehensive look at not only the events in Ali's life, but delves into his personality and actions, notably his move away from being the outspoken member of the Nation of Islam and civil rights activist, to becoming a more mainstream celebrity.

"When he comes back from his exile from boxing in the 1970s, he seems to just want to be a celebrity. He doesn't talk about race very much anymore, he doesn't talk as much about the Nation of Islam. He starts doing television commercials for all kinds of products. He endorses his own line of cologne, and linens for the beds, and hamburgers. 

How did Muhammad Ali marry two opposing parts of his personality - a desire to be famous with his wish to be an anti-establishment figure? Jonathan Eig, author of the new book 'Ali: A Life' joined us on #OTBam this morning to shed some light on a complex personality. #Ali #muhammadali #boxing #sport #boxingnews #fitness #boxingfans #fight #otb

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"That's what makes Ali so fascinating, he wants to be the rebel, he wants to be the thorn in the side, and he wants to be loved, and those things are at war within him".

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