Laila Ali, daughter of iconic boxer Muhammad Ali, and undefeated champ herself, tells PEOPLE that her dad is “is in good spirits and knows what’s going on around him.”
The retired undefeated boxer talked to the magazine about raising two children who don’t fullY understand their grandfather’s legacy quite yet.
“To them, he is just ‘Papa’ and I’m mom. But my son is starting to understand how great my dad truly was.”
Muhammad Ali has been battling Parkinson’s Disease for 30 years and Laila admits it was hard for her son to piece together old photos of her father with the man they know today. Ali revealed that during Black History Month, her son was confused to see a photo of her grandfather with Martin Luther King Jr., saying,
“He knows a grandpa that can’t walk or talk anymore, and to see him next to MLK, to him a guy of the past, made him confused. He was like ‘Papa knows MLK, they were together?’ It was a surreal moment for him because it placed someone he knows now in history.” Further adding, “The next day he came back to me and started talking about death,” she says. “He had put together that MLK Jr. had passed away and that Papa might too. He said ‘I don’t want you to die Papa!’ “
It was an emotional moment for Ali, but thankfully, her father continues to fight. She shared,
“That man continues to put me in awe. He’s such a fighter, still, when at times he seems weak and not able to handle it he comes through stronger than ever. He’s still fighting regardless and I love my dad for that.”
WANT MORE FROM ESSENCE? Subscribe to our daily newsletter for the latest in hair, beauty, style and celebrity news.