The Truth About Muhammad Ali's Children

There's a reason Muhammad Ali was dubbed "The Greatest." An Olympic gold medallist by the tender age of 18, he would go on to become the three-time heavyweight champion of the world. Ali's professional record, as well as his impact on both the sport of boxing and the cultural landscape, cannot be understated.

In the turbulent 1960s, where segregation was still rife and racial injustice shrouded the nation, Ali was at the forefront of civil rights. A sharp-witted, charismatic heavyweight, he had an unyielding sense of justice that propelled him into the media spotlight. And thus, an iconic public persona was born. But what do we know about his personal life away from the cameras?

Many women were drawn to the enigmatic boxer, and he subsequently sired nine children. A number of Ali's kids have followed in his athletic footsteps, while others have adopted his altruistic and community-based values. Like Ali, his children have stood up and fought for the rights of the oppressed and marginalized. As the revered boxer once said, "Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth." 

The champ may be gone, but he lives on through the incredible personal and professional lives of his offspring. This is the truth about Muhammad Ali's children.

Maryum 'May May' Ali is an activist and author

Born in 1968, Maryum "May May" is Muhammad Ali's first child, from his marriage to Khalilah Ali. In 2003, she wrote a children's book, "I Shook Up the World: The Incredible Life of Muhammad Ali," to uplift and inspire children. 

As Ali explained to Jet, she saw the positive response young children had to the documentary "When We Were Kings," which focuses on the iconic "Rumble in the Jungle" boxing match. "I thought to myself, 'What a good idea it would be to illustrate my father's funny one-liners and poems in a children's book.'" Subsequently, she said that the core message of the book is one of "believing in yourself" and "standing up for your beliefs."

But her activism isn't confined to bookshelves. Ali has found a space for activism in, of all places, reality television. In 2016, she appeared on the series "60 Days In," in which she went undercover in an Indiana jail. While reality TV may seem unbefitting of an activist, Ali says that she has utilized the medium as a political platform. 

"When they told me the concept, I lit up a little bit because of my experience with young clients I'm trying to prevent from going to jail," she told Essence of the surreal experience. A heavyweight champion in her own right, her website notes that the multitalented Ali has a bachelor's degree in social work, and she formerly was a stand-up comedian and rapper.

Rasheda Ali has a famous son

Two years after Maryum was born, Muhammad and Khalilah Ali welcomed twin daughters Rasheda and Jamillah. A Parkinson's disease advocate, Rasheda has spoken about how her father's diagnosis shaped her campaign work. 

As she told The Guardian, Parkinson's proliferated Muhammad Ali's altruistic nature. "He didn't stop giving to people," she explained. "He didn't stop sharing. It was a little difficult at the end when it was hard to walk and talk, but he still continued to do the things that he thinks God put him on this earth for: to give to others. In my honest opinion, I think that Parkinson's disease saved his life."

In addition to her work with Parkinson's organizations, Rasheda Ali has her own budding boxing champ to contend with. Rasheda and her restaurateur husband, Robert Walsh, are the parents of sons Biaggio Ali Walsh and middleweight boxer Nico Walsh, who has said that "being Muhammad Ali's grandson is a blessing and a curse" (via The Sun). 

When Nico told his mom that his dream was to become a boxer, she was hesitant to say the least. "Is this something you really want to do?" Rasheda asked her son, according to ESPN. The mom thought, "Can't you just play soccer or basketball like a normal kid?" However, she ultimately relented and offered some sweet words of encouragement. "Daddy will be there, too," she said seven years later upon Nico's pro debut. "In spirit."

Jamillah Ali Joyce does a lot of charity work

Following in The Greatest's footsteps, Jamillah Ali Joyce has devoted her life to philanthropic pursuits. As her father once said, "I've always wanted to be more than just a boxer. More than just the three-time heavyweight champion. I wanted to use my fame, and this face that everyone knows so well, to help uplift and inspire people around the world" (via Muhammad Ali's tribute Twitter account).

Subsequently, Joyce has taken her father's words of wisdom to heart. According to the Ali Center, she works with the homeless and underprivileged communities of Chicago. Speaking with CNN about the impact her own father's humanitarian efforts had on the world, she said, "He made a big difference to lives, too. To some people, he completely changed their lives. And that means a lot to us because that's what he would want to stand for; he would want to make a difference and stand for what you believe in."

Asked about the biggest lesson she learned from her father, Joyce said that she was inspired by his ability to fight for the rights of the marginalized even when his own body was faltering. "Never give up. He has persevered his whole entire life, and he's fought for what he believed in, even with Parkinson's, and he didn't give up. And he fought all the way to the end," she revealed.

Muhammad Ali Jr. wasn't close to his dad

The boxer's fourth child with Khalilah Ali was his first son, Muhammad Ali Jr., who was born in 1972. Alas, the boxer's only biological son and namesake reportedly grew apart from his father. According to the New York Post, Ali Jr. was living a life of destitution in 2014. 

"I wished before my dad got really sick, I could have had that father-son relationship, but that's impossible now," Ali Jr. poignantly confessed to the Post. "I wish I could have made up for lost time. But it doesn't break my heart anymore. It's been broken so many times."

When his father died, Ali Jr. reportedly claimed he was "penniless" and had received close to nothing from the boxing legend's multimillion dollar estate. "It's a crazy situation, he just wants the same as all his other siblings," a source told The Sun. Ali Jr. alleged that his dad's widow, Lonnie, controlled the estate and was attempting to prevent him from inheriting his late father's fortune. "The last thing he needs to do is cause more tension with Lonnie, who he's never got on with, he's scared he'll be cut from the inheritance entirely. ... He sometimes misses out on a meal as he's not got enough to live on," the insider continued.

 Ali and all his siblings ultimately each received $6 million from his father's $80 million fortune, according to the Mirror.

Miya Ali mostly grew up without her dad nearby

Muhammad Ali had an extramarital affair with Patricia Harvell, and they had a daughter named Miya in 1972. She is fairly private, but Miya did appear on Family Feud with her siblings in 2016.

Miya didn't get to spend as much time with her father as her siblings did. As her sister, Hana, relayed to ESPN, Miya's father surprised her when she really needed him at 8 years old. Kids at school teased Miya, claiming that she wasn't Muhammad Ali's daughter. "Being fair-skinned didn't help matters much," she recalled. After tearfully calling her father about the situation, "he flew into town and walked me up and down the street so everyone could see us together. He took me to school the next morning, and they called an assembly. When all the students were in the auditorium, he had me point out the kids who had been teasing me. One at a time they walked up to the stage. He shook their hands and told each of them that he was my daddy. That meant more to me than words can explain." Now that's a memory you could never forget!

While she did get to speak on the phone with her father and enjoy occasional visits, Miya's time with Ali was sparse. However, when raising awareness about dyslexia, Miya told WWLTV that she was happily reunited with the boxing champ after relocating to Michigan; she lived with him while she started university.

Khaliah Ali devotes her life to social change

Two years after Miya's birth, Muhammad Ali began a relationship with Aaisha Fletcher, who was just 16 at the time (per The Telegraph). They had a daughter in 1974, Khaliah, who is a passionate campaigner for social justice. According to HollywoodLife, Khaliah is on the board of Philadelphia's Juvenile Law Center.

Along with her son, Jacob, she has been involved in the Black Lives Matter protests. Regarding her involvement in social justice demonstrations, Khaliah reflected on the generational significance of the movement. "As I sit here next to my son, I reflect on the fact that my grandmother sat next to my father, and so on," she told ABC News. "These issues are systemic." Jacob added, "I think it's really important. You know, that we salute, stand with the protesters, the people who are using their voice to make sure that this country becomes what it must become."

Khaliah has emphasized the struggles her own father faced when it came to racial injustice. For instance, despite being a world champion, Muhammad Ali was banned from entering many public spaces due to segregation laws. "I think what's important about that was the empowerment and the focus and the drive that came from that moment, how he was able to take something that technically could have been a negative," Khaliah said. "And he could have just stopped right there, and decided to make it not only about himself, but about others, and eventually the world."

Hana Ali writes about her father's life

In 1977, Muhammad Ali married for the third time, to Veronica Porché, and they had a daughter named Hana. Hana has written multiple books about the life of her father, as noted by HarperCollins. While Muhammad Ali is often lionized, and rightly so, for both his wrestling prowess and commitment to civil rights, he was by no means a flawless human being. No one is more aware of this than Hana, who has had to reconcile her hero worship of her father with the harsh reality of his infidelity.

"I know my dad was not perfect. But I respect and love how we handled his faults," she explained to Publishers Weekly. "I unfairly blamed my mother for the breakup of their marriage. I was a daddy's girl. He could do no wrong in my eyes." However, after finding letters that Ali wrote to a lover, Hana's idolization of her dad turned from denial to sadness. "Those feelings intensified when I discovered my dad's love letters to her," she admitted. "How could she have not known about them? But after a while, I eventually saw her relationship with my father through her eyes."

As for her own private life, Hana is married to mixed martial artist Kevin CaseyPenguin Publishing notes that in addition to her career as a writer, Hana is a support worker for autistic children, exemplifying the seven Ali daughters' commitment to their father's legacy of compassion.

Laila Ali became a boxer

Laila Ali is the boxer's second child with Veronica Porché. Taking after her father's athletic aptitude, Ali is a retired professional boxer. "My dad met his match when he had me, okay?" Ali joked to WBUR. "That's the funny thing. My father met his match, and he knew it." 

From the age of 18, Ali knew she wanted to become a professional boxer after watching Tyson v. Bruno. "All of a sudden, I saw two women enter the ring," she recounted to Fatherly. "They weren't ring girls. They were fighters. For the first 18 years of my life, I never even thought boxing a possibility for me. After watching that fight, I knew it was something I had to do." 

However, Ali had to contend with her famous father decrying her newfound profession. "It's not for women. It's not a girl sport. It's a man's sport. It's too hard and you can get hurt," Ali recalled her father telling her. But she proved him wrong, and a year later, was hailed world champion.

It seems that Ali has more in common with her dad than she would like to admit. Though she had to fight — quite literally — against sexist opposition to her career choice, Ali has made it clear that she doesn't want her own kids to box. "I'm not encouraging anybody else's kids," she told ESPN before having children. "So why would I encourage my own? No. I'm crazy, but I hope my kids are sane."

Asaad Amin Ali was adopted

After Muhammad Ali married his fourth and final wife, Lonnie Williams, in 1986, they adopted a baby boy, Asaad Amin. According to Courier Journal, Asaad had been given up by his mom, and Ali essentially saved him from a childhood that could very well have been spent in the foster care system. 

As he grew up, Asaad eschewed the boxing ring for the baseball field. Following a brief amateur career, The New York Times reports that Asaad went on to coach baseball at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls.

Unlike the other Ali siblings, Asaad got to spend his entire upbringing with his father, not least because Muhammad Ali, who had long retired from boxing when he welcomed his adoptive son, was in his mid 40s by the time Asaad came along. "I've lived with him my whole life; it's kind of different (for me)," he told Courier Journal, adding, "As the years go by, it's been a little harder for him. But you can tell he still has that twinkle in his eye sometimes when he talks to me, and he just loves being around us kids."

When his dad was receiving palliative care, Asaad visited him in the hospital. The incredible life that the boxer had bestowed upon that once forsaken baby was not lost on Asaad. He said of his late father, "I'm forever grateful for everything you ever gave me."

Rasheda Ali has the best memory of her dad

Without a doubt, being the progeny of an icon such as Muhammad Ali provides ample warm and unforgettable childhood memories. After all, few children are spawned by legends, not to mention one whose legacy and lionization continues over half a decade after his death.

Speaking with the Independent, Rasheda Ali recalled one of her greatest childhood memories. "He loved driving his favorite car, which was a Rolls Royce," she explained. "We would visit him in the summer and get in the back and have the top down on the convertible and we'd drive down Wilshire Boulevard, and to see people's reaction with Muhammad Ali with his kids in the back of the car was one of the most magnificent memories I've ever had of my father."

Watching The Greatest casually driving along the road in his swanky vehicle certainly sounds like a sight to behold, and it's a testament to Ali's impeccable showmanship, both inside and outside the ring. Rasheda recounted, "As other drivers looked around on the road, lots of pedestrians took notice and stopped in amazement. My dad always had a way with stopping traffic and people in their tracks, and he loved every minute of it."

Accordingly, Rasheda recognizes that Ali's love of the limelight was perfectly understandable considering his humble beginnings. As she told The Guardian, "He was a small-town boy automatically thrust into the mainstream."

Muhammad Ali accepted his children's differing cultural paths

Marrying the daughter of arguably the greatest boxer who ever lived doubtlessly brings innumerable challenges. Just ask Jamillah Ali Joyce, who has said that her father was somewhat hesitant when her then-fiance, Mike Joyce, asked for her hand in marriage. However, when seeing the love that Mike had for his daughter, Ali gave the union his blessing. 

As Jamillah recalled (via DNAinfo), her father "wanted me to be the very best. He wanted me to have the best relationship and to approve whomever I decided that would be." Regarding her decision to marry a white man, Jamillah said Ali was ultimately welcoming. "My dad is all about love and all about peace and that's what my dad stands for. Love comes in all races, all colors. ... All that have love and peace in their heart were all equal in my dad's eyes," she explained.

Khaliah faced something similar when marrying a Jewish man. A devoted Muslim throughout his life, Muhammad Ali accepted Khaliah's son, Jacob, as Jewish. Regarding her son's bar mitzvah, Khaliah told NBC News, "My dad, he so badly wanted to be there to support Jacob. And it was beautiful, every religion was represented. And my dad wanted to show his love, his compassion, and his respect for Judaism. He gladly grabbed the Torah... and he embraced the Torah and kissed it, as grandparents do. It was really beautiful to see."

Kiiursti Mensah-Ali claims to be Muhammad Ali's love child

It has been alleged that Muhammad Ali had an affair with a woman named Barbara Mensah and, according to Mensah's daughter, Kiiursti, the boxer is her biological father. Speaking with the Mirror, Kiiursti alleged that Ali's wife, Lonnie, was preventing her from seeing her supposed father. "Muhammad Ali is my dad — but everything changed the moment he married her," she claimed. "He stopped coming to see me. As the years went by, he got sicker and sicker. She stopped him having a relationship with me. It's been devastating."

Kiiursti's adamant belief that the venerable boxing champion is her biological father was possibly instigated by her mom. Two days after Ali's funeral, Barbara Mensah told the Mirror that she had incriminating sex tapes of the late boxer and was hoping to sell them for a small fortune. Mensah, who claimed that "Ali always ­referred to me as his wife with great respect and not as a hidden affair," told the tabloid that a 1988 paternity test verifies that Ali fathered Kiiursti.

Despite these claims, they are ultimately just that: claims. In fact, DNA evidence has allegedly disproved the assertions made by both Kiiursti and her mom. Maxim posits that the aforementioned DNA test actually shows that The Greatest wasn't Kiiursti's father, despite her exhibiting a strong likeness to the boxer.

Muhammad Ali Jr. has some problematic views

When Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd in a horrific and unprovoked attack, the world was aghast. Subsequently, protests swept across the nation, as those passionate about ending racial injustice fought for the lives of Black people, who are statistically far more likely to be killed by the police. But there was one man who wasn't marching for Black Lives Matter. And that man was Muhammad Ali Jr.

The younger Ali holds some rather controversial and problematic views. As such, he has made quite the bold statement, alleging that his father would oppose the Black Lives Matter movement. "I don't think he'd agree," Ali Jr. told The New York Post, inexplicably branding the anti-racism organization as, well, "racist." A Donald Trump supporter, Ali Jr. went on to make the baffling claim that his dad would also have voted for the divisive Trump.

But considering his passionate opposition to the Vietnam War, it's highly likely that Muhammad Ali would have, in fact, supported BLM. This is, after all, the man who fervently fought against white supremacy, famously declaring that no Vietnamese person had ever used a racial slur against him. The elder Ali went to jail for his convictions. One can't help but wonder what he would make of his son's controversial views if he were alive today.

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Khaliah will always miss her dad

In 2016, Muhammad Ali died after more than three decades of living with Parkinson's Disease, with which he was diagnosed at the age of just 42, per ESPN. He left behind nine devoted children, and after all these years, the pain of losing such a beloved parent has not subsided.

Following the boxer's tragic death, Khaliah spoke with HollywoodLife about the void her father's passing has left in her life. "I always reserve the right — which wasn't always easy to do — to be my father's child and nothing more. So, what I would tell you, I miss most are his wonderful hugs and his beautiful smile and his amazing sense of humor," she emotionally revealed.

Khaliah's poignant sentiment speaks to the unbreakable bond that she shared with her father. Despite being the child of a certified legend, Khaliah always saw Ali, first and foremost, as dad. Growing up in the glare of the paparazzi lens, it's a common dynamic for the children of celebrities to have emotionally strained relationships. But being absent from her superstar father only drew Khaliah closer to him. 

"Of course, when your father is the most famous man the world over, you have to share him with the world, which meant I didn't get to be with him as much as other children get to be with their fathers. ... But that meant the time we did have together was all the more precious," she told NBC News.