282 Days To Mt. Kilimanjaro – Muhammad Ali Came Home To The 5th Street Gym

Yesterday Muhammad Ali returned to the 5th Street Gym in Miami, Florida, and it is said that “this is where Muhammad Ali became Muhammad Ali.”  So much has changed over 50 years when he trained as a young man in this gym.

The 5th Street Gym, originally opened in 1950 and quickly became the celebrated University of Boxing. After being closed down for 17 years, the gym is reopening and Ali came out for the ribbon cutting ceremony in support of the owner, his former trainer Angelo Dundee.

In it’s day, The 5th Street Gym was a hard core training center described as the temple and nerve center of  boxing during the sport’s golden era. Spectators were charged $0.50 cents just to watch some of the “greats” working in the ring. 5th Street had quite a draw in it’s heyday, attracting international celebrities inclucing Joe Louis, Malcolm X and even The Beatles.

What was once described as a grungy sweatbox located up stairs over a liquor store, now shines like a shiny new nickel. Today it is complete with air conditioning and the latest in high-tech fitness  equipment and is poised to offer Pilates, cardio boxing classes and fancy sports drinks to a new crowd of followers. What would the boxing purists think now as they compared this to bare walls, punching bags and boxing rings of their era?

When Ali entered through the back door of 5th Street Gym, the crowd roared and chanted, “Ali! Ali! Ali!” He could not smile or speak but I have to imagine he would not have missed this event for anything. After all, this is the very place that Muhammad Ali became Muhammad Ali.

The news was reported with an air of sadness after reporters saw Ali’s present physical condition last night.  But what the evening news and the newspapers did not mention in their story last night is the incredible generosity of this three-time Heavy Weight Champion, also known as “The Greatest”. I was facinated by his life story after reading about him.  I thought I should share what I consider one of his greatest contributions, among the many.

On December 3, 2009, Muhammad Ali was present for another ribbon cutting. This time it was he who cut the red ribbon of the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

Officials at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center say the facility is now the most comprehensive in the nation for the treatment of the brain disorder, which causes tremors, slowed movement, and muffled speech.

The Parkinson’s center first opened in 1997 with a couple doctors and the ability to treat about 60 patients a year. A direct result of Ali’s contribution, it’s now doubled in size with six doctors and is expected to treat 1,600 new patients a year. Funding for the center was established by Ali, Jimmy Walker, a Phoenix philanthropist, and Dr. Abraham Lieberman.

The expanded Parkinson’s Center is committed to providing excellence in diagnosis, treatment, therapy, research and education for people with Parkinson’s disease  and other movement disorders.

Caregivers and family members, along with patients, are encouraged to attend support groups, educational classes, research studies and assistance programs, conferences, recreational programs and other services to enrich the lives of those living with PD and other neurological disorders.

Other services offered in this facility include, Innovative and leading-edge diagnostic and therapeutic services. Research studies directed at improving treatment options, enhancing the quality of life for people with PD, and finding a cure.

For more information on the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center located at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona visit: http//www.mapprc.com

I realize how much Ali has given to the world, after reading about him. He is said to be the most well known man on earth and the greatest athlete of the twentieth century. He is only 68 years old and I pray we get a cure in his lifetime. He is no doubt a man of compassion and his voice is missed.

I thank Muhammad Ali for his contribution to finding a cure for PD.  I hope he was energized by standing in The 5th Street Gym, remembering when he was a young man and when he became Muhammad Ali.


At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has a cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.
Albert Schweitzer

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