‘The Greatest’ is honored in Vegas

by Symptom Advice on March 9, 2012

LAS VEGAS — there might not be a better location than Las Vegas for a celebration of Muhammad Ali’s life. it was here, amongst the glitz on The Strip, that Ali conceived the swagger and braggadocio to match his brilliance in the ring. And it is here that some of the most advanced research and treatment of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, the disease Ali has been afflicted with for three decades, is being conducted at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in downtown Las Vegas. about 2,000 people attended a star-studded gala and fund-raiser to honor Ali during an evening of celebration at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night. Attendees paid as much as $10,000 a ticket for the event, with the proceeds going to the Lou Ruvo Center and to the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Ky. Ali arrived late Saturday surrounded by his family, including his wife and daughter. When chants of “Ali, Ali” rang out through the arena, Ali’s face lit up and he did his best to acknowledge the crowd. Organizers were concerned that the funeral for Whitney Houston in Newark on Saturday afternoon would create conflicts for entertainers who were scheduled to perform at the Vegas gala. but only two performers, Stevie wonder and Sean Combs, had to amend their travel schedules, flying here after the Houston services. Bob Arum of Top Rank, who promoted 27 of Ali’s 61 fights, flew in some of Ali’s former opponents, including George Chuvalo, Earnie Shavers, Chuck Wepner and Leon Spinks, along with Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns. Arum thought it was important for those fighters to attend, because he wanted the night to be special for Ali. he saw Ali at the funeral of his former trainer, Angelo Dundee in Clearwater, Fla., last week. “He didn’t look good,” said Arum, who described Ali as expressionless during the funeral service. “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen him look.” George Foreman, who keeps in contact with Ali on a weekly basis via texts and email, said it is important that Ali makes himself visible. “There isn’t any reason to hide out,” Foreman said. “He is sending a very important message just by being in the public eye.” Shavers, whom Ali called “The Acorn” because of the shape of his bald head, said he owes everything to Ali and wouldn’t have thought of missing the celebration. “I’m still getting bookings today because I fought Ali,” Shavers said. “He changed my life. he changed my family’s life. I wouldn’t be where I’m at now, at age 67, if it wasn’t for Ali.” All of the fighters were invited into two large boxing rings on opposite sides of the stage, and the floor of the arena was filled with many people who felt the same as Shaver and Foreman. it was aptly entitled “The Power of love Gala.” it was a homecoming of sorts for Ali, because legend has it that Ali conceived of the idea of being brash and bold after meeting the flamboyant wrestler gorgeous George in Las Vegas in 1961. Ali was just 19 years old and was fighting Duke Sabedong, a heavyweight from Hawaii, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. two days before his fight, Ali and gorgeous George were scheduled to appear on a local TV sportscast. George talked smack about his opponent, about how pretty he was and how he was going to dispatch him. Supposedly George told Ali that if he wanted to make it big in boxing he needed to add some showbiz flare to his repertoire. Ali defeated Sabedong in a 10-round decision and took gorgeous George’s advice. “The Greatest” was born. Fifty years later, back in Las Vegas, and being honored with songs from Lenny Kravitz, Kelly Rowland, Cee Lo Green and others, Ali is a stoic figure — locked away inside a shell ravaged by Parkinson’s. No one knows whether years of shots to the head during his ring career and hundreds of rounds of sparring led to Ali’s current condition. but the research that is being done at the center in downtown Las Vegas, inside of a Stainless Steel building designed by noted architect Frank Gehry to that question. And that research may be able to stop long-term brain injuries from occurring with boxers in the future. The center is currently undertaking an extensive brain study involving 146 active professional boxers and Mixed Martial Arts fighters. The boxers will undergo MRIs of the brain and other tests once a year for four years to detect subtle changes in the brain that affect memory, movement and mood. Dr. Charles Bernick, a Las Vegas neurologist, is leading the study and he hopes to identify the point at which the changes occur that result in impaired thinking and brain function. “We know that changes occur decades before the onset of symptoms,” Bernick said during a tour of the facility with a small group of reporters Friday afternoon. by studying those subtle changes, Bernick said boxers will be armed with information that would allow them to determine whether it is safe to continue their careers or walk away from the sport. Jesse Magdaleno, a 20-year-old junior featherweight prospect with an 8-0 record, is participating in the study. “This is a great thing for my health, especially starting as a young fighter,” Magdaleno said. “Starting from here and going for four years we’ll see how my brain is functioning. every little thing will help and it will help other fighters out there. you have to be 100% with your health or other things will happen to you.”

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