Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali’s only son has revealed he was a crack addict and regularly paid for sex after his famous dad abandoned him when he was five.
The boxer’s son, Muhammad Ali Jr has opened up about growing up in poverty in a Hollywood biopic on his life which is due to be released next month.
The only son of Muhammad Ali has opened up about his crack addiction and using prostitutes, as the story of being abandoned by his boxing legend father has been turned into a Hollywood film.
Just two years ago, Muhammad Ali Jr was taking drugs and regularly paying for sex but has dramatically reversed his fortunes.
For most of adulthood and despite his dad’s vast wealth, Jr lived in abject poverty and reverted to “crack and hookers” to escape his bleak situation.
The producer of The Irishman, filmmaker Chad Verdi, has told Ali Jr’s story in the documentary “My Father Muhammad Ali”, which is out in cinemas from January 13.
For the first time in years, Ali Jr is off the crack and is now studying for his General Education Development [GED].
He’s also set up the organization, The Muhammad Ali Legacy Continues, to help kids who are struggling with bullying and promote anti-racism.
The biopic focuses on how Ali Jr was effectively abandoned by his dad, nicknamed “The Greatest”, but was certainly not the best father, leaving Ali to be raised by his maternal grandparents from the age of five.
In an exclusive joint interview, Ali Jr, Verdi and co-director Tommy DeNucci open up on the movie, which exposes the struggle Ali’s only biological son went through due to childhood neglect.
Verdi says: “Where he is today, from where he was, is night and day. The guy is studying for his GED, he’s off drugs.
“Jr was a junkie, he was addicted to crack, that that’s what he was, but the guy today, all he wants to do is help his family and really live his father’s legacy because it’s in his DNA.
“The documentary is telling the story. We’re able to have Jr open up about his addiction to drugs. He got off crack, got off the hookers, let’s just call it the way it is.
“He wants to be a better person every single day. For the first time it’s working. Because when we first met, it wasn’t really there.
“It took a little time. A year and a half ago, to where he is today, is incredible.
Ali Jr adds: “I was a crack addict two and a half years ago. [I wanted to get better] because I want to better my life.”
Ali Jr has largely been shunned by his natural family and his father’s fourth wife Lonnie, who has control over his $50 million estate.
The movie claims that Ali Jr only gets around $1,000-a-month from the estate and is currently making ends meet as a painter with his best friend, retired New York cop Richard Blum, who also acts as his manager.
Verdi says Ali’s always had to appease stepmom Lonnie in interviews, but that’s all changed now, adding: “”He got very little, but he didn’t want to get nothing.
“So it was best for him to play ball and just go with the flow. What’s different is his life has changed.
“He’s happier. Obviously, he’s not on drugs, he’s trying to better himself. He’s surrounded by a lot of people, including the entire Verdi team that love him.
“We wrote Lonnie and her team a letter, they just chose, politely, not to respond. They had no comment.
“He was isolated from the family. He is still isolated. And that’s fine. I think he’s overcome that now. And that’s why he’s doing better.”
Ali Jr adds: “I’ve never been scared [of Lonnie]. I had to hold my tongue for a reason.”
The 50-year-old opens up on film to Harvard-trained celeb psychologist Dr Monica O’Neal about being bullied incessantly as a child and still calls his high school teacher, Dr Larry Baran, “daddy”, who appears in the movie to be a better role model than his father ever was.
DeNucci adds: “We all know so much about Muhammad Ali, the athlete, Muhammad Ali, the celebrity, and Muhammad Ali, the activist, but there’s really not a lot out there about Muhammad Ali, the father, and what type of family person he was, and what life would be like inside the walls of the Muhammad Ali home.
“I want to tell the story of what it’s like to be kind of a person that probably required a little more help from Day One, that never got that help from the people who are literally put on the planet to help you, the Number One people, your mom and dad. He just didn’t get that support.”
Verdi is even more forthright but blames the onset of Ali’s Parkinson’s Disease, which was diagnosed at the age of 42 in 1984.
Although the film argues whether ignoring his son from an early age was the work of the disease or willful neglect.
He says: “This is the son of one of the biggest names in the world. He shouldn’t fhave to be working ever.
“He should have never been living in poverty. He was basically isolated and frowned upon from the family for whatever reason. That’s just the truth.”
Ali Jr likes to pin his suffering on “carrying the name”, as his only natural son – Ali also had seven daughters and adopted another boy Asaad.
Verdi defends this, saying: “His father was sick, his father had no control, he didn’t know how to protect his son, or anyone at that time.
“The family took over everything. And, unfortunately, in my opinion, he was frowned upon because he carried the name.”
His father had numerous affairs, walked away from three marriages, and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in this case, as his son ran away from estranged wife Shaakira, whom he left five years ago in Chicago and moved to Miami.
Like father, like son, the doc explores how Ali Jr hasn’t been there for their two younger children, Ameera and Shakera, although he has reconnected with eldest daughter Saliah.
He is filmed walking upto Shaakira’s family home, but instead of a happy reunion, he returns to the car with divorce papers, and says to camera: “I got served the papers, dissolution of marriage, never liked her anyway.”
The doc questions whether Ali Jr will ever live upto his father’s legacy, as he and Blum struggle to set up their foundation, which isn’t yet a registered non-profit.
Their “five to ten year plan to accomplish everything we want to do”, according to Blum, is shown to be ultimately flawed and futile.
But Ali Jr won’t give in and reckons he’s in the “biggest fight of all” to carry on the so-called legacy and quotes from his famous dad.
He says: “I’ve found the shoes that I need to walk in. But I want to do like my father said.
“He said he doesn’t start countin’ until it starts hurtin’. That’s when it really counts. I didn’t start countin’. But when they start hurtin’, that’s what I’m gonna start.”