Journalists recall intimate interviews with 'The Champ'
Posted June 6
Raleigh, N.C. — In the wake of the death this weekend of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, a pair of former WRAL journalists will finally see their work from nearly three decades ago come to light.
After they left WRAL, photographer Art Howard and reporter Bryan Glazer worked together on a public service announcement about Parkinson's disease, gathering hours of footage at the boxing champ’s Louisville home and trailing him to Capitol Hill where he asked for federal funding.
In 1998, just two years after Ali's public appearance at the Atlanta Olympic Games, Howard first came upon the champ sitting in a living room chair with his eyes closed.
"I stuck out my hand thinking I’m supposed to shake this person’s hand who’s so great and he just threw a punch at me," Howard said. "He was so aware of where he was and who was there and what was going on and he just punched me and stopped about two inches from my face. It was like, 'Oh my God! I’ve probably had one of the greatest moments of my life.'"
The PSA aired for several years, but raw interviews with Ali and his doctors remained under wraps.
Howard and Glazer tried to donate their footage to the Muhammad Ali museum years ago, but Ali’s wife declined, saying she didn’t want her husband remembered for Parkinson’s disease until after his passing.