Joe Frazier Says God Responsible for Muhammad Ali’s Parkinson’s April 11, 2009

Joe Frazier Says God Responsible for Muhammad Ali’s Parkinson’s

The “Thrilla in Manila” was the third (and most famous) fight between boxers Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. A documentary about the fight will air on HBO tonight.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Frazier explains his absurd theory as to why Ali has Parkinson’s Disease:

… as a Christian, Frazier said, he isn’t surprised by it, either.

“I’m sorry that he is the way he is, but I didn’t have too much to do with it. It was the good man above,” Frazier said. “Maybe I did have a little to do with it, but God judges, you know what I’m saying? We don’t have the power to judge that the man has above.”

Frazier believes that Ali’s arrogant boasts of “I am the greatest!” were “a slap in the Lord’s face,” and that he did the same to his family when he changed his name from Cassius Clay to reflect his Muslim beliefs.

Ali was cocky, so God gave him a life-altering disease. That sounds about right.

Ron Gold puts it well:

I can’t think of a better advertisement for Christianity: “Be a humble Christian, or God will give you Parkinson’s!”

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  • This is Frazier desperately trying to convince himself that he didn’t contribute to Ali’s condition and it couldn’t just as well be him with Parkinson’s. Head trauma is known to be a risk factor for developing the disease, and both Frazier and Ali definitely had repeated frequent head trauma for a good portion of their lives. Sad but not surprising.

  • Siamang

    Wow, what did Joe Frazier do that was so bad that God mad him an asshole?

    Sorry, I fucking Hero Worship Muhammad Ali. Although Frazier could probably STILL beat me to a pulp at his age, I’d nevertheless stand between him and Ali.

  • Richard Wade

    Why is it that whenever somebody a theist doesn’t like gets sick, it’s God’s punishment, but whenever they themselves or a friend gets sick, that’s just illness?

  • Jeff Satterley


    Why is it that whenever somebody a theist doesn’t like gets sick, it’s God’s punishment, but whenever they themselves or a friend gets sick, that’s just illness?

    Oh, but it’s NOT just an illness. It’s an all-loving God testing us, to make our faith stronger. Because surely your faith must be pretty strong to actually accept any part of this explanation.

  • dfledermaus

    As is often the case with Christianity, there’s a recycled pagan idea at the heart of Joe Frazier’s theory. In ancient Greece, hubris, or overweening pride and arrogance, was considered a challenge to the gods and one they were quick to seek revenge for. It was, in fact, considered to be the greatest sin in the Greek world.

    The appeal of this “sin” to today’s Christians (and others) is that it’s an easy answer to any challenge to faith as well as a threat against any behavior other than meek acceptance of fate or authority. Hubris is the sin of Fausts, Frankensteins and boxers who “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee!”

  • Richard Wade

    To Jeff,

    Oh, but it’s NOT just an illness. It’s an all-loving God testing us, to make our faith stronger. Because surely your faith must be pretty strong to actually accept any part of this explanation.

    Ohhhh, I see. Thanks. The explanation is so circular, so complete within itself, I can understand its appeal. But most of the theists who seem to faithfully accept God’s punishment-by-sickness of their enemies, also seem to argue with God when he makes them or their friends sick. They say “We’re praying that God will grant them recovery.” So they say “Atta boy! Good shooting, God!” when people they dislike have a stroke, but they say, “Hey God, you hit the wrong guy here, you should fix him.” when their buddies have a stroke. So much for meeting the test of faith.


    You have a very insightful point. It’s so very Greek. When I read Frazier’s idea about the punishment for hubris, I immediately thought of Poseidon keeping Odysseus from getting home until he was humbled. When I was thinking about Christians who attribute the illness of non-Christians to God’s punishment, I was thinking about Apollo in the Iliad, who shot Greeks with his arrows whenever other gods could persuade him. To mortals they looked like they were dying of plague.

  • Pope John Paul II had Parkinsons too. What does that say about him? Oh right, he was the anti-christ. :p

  • Michael J Fox has Parkinson’s which clearly reveals God’s anger at time travelling fiction. David Tenant is next.

    Vincent Price also had Parkinson’s which must be divine judgment against …um… the voice over for Thriller?

    God also prevents stem cell research into reversing or arresting this illness. Clearly God is just and all loving.

  • My mother had Parkinson (late-onset, so what it mostly did was to horribly complicate the last five years of a respectably long life). Must have been God’s punishment for dumping her childhood Methodism as a young woman, back around the start of WWII.

  • One other thing: God “punished” Ali by letting him beat Frazier in 2 of 3 fights.

    Not that I have any special hatred for Joe Frazier, but this was a stupid thing for him to say.

  • Noadi has it nailed. It’s self-protection.

    What I noticed was the ‘good man’…

  • AnonyMouse

    I didn’t realize I was bisexual until after I became an atheist… did God make me bisexual as punishment?

    Seriously, though, I wouldn’t have bought that nonsense even as a Christian. I couldn’t bring myself to be arrogant enough to believe that God punished anyone whom I personally thought deserved it. Not when he allowed diseases that were just as bad or worse to strike his followers on a regular basis.

  • So does Frazier really and truly not know any humble, faithful Christians with terrible diseases?


    Somehow, I doubt that. I think it’s more like Jeff said. To bad people, bad things are a punishment; to good people, bad things are a test/ mysterious ways. Blessed if you do, blessed if you don’t.

  • Daniel

    I saw a great documentary on the ‘Thrilla in Manila’ on HBO recently, and I’d have to say that Frazier certainly isn’t trying to convince himself that he didn’t cause Ali’s condition as others are trying to suggest. He actually seemed at one point to say that he personally caused it, and he is glad to have done it. At another point he says that Ali’s condition is some kind of kharma. Now he’s saying God did it. Frazier isn’t exactly as lucid as you might want him to be, and to jump all over him for this one quote is as reactionary as every religious forum thread that jumps all over any perceived slight to their beliefs.

    What it seems to me that he wants to say is that Ali deserves it. And frankly, after seeing how Ali race-baited Frazier and turned against a one time friend, I’d have to agree.

  • Having met and worked with both Frazier and Ali I just want to comment that they bothe treated us with respect and as peers.

    Much more than you could expect from such legends.

    Anyway just wanted to share do not judge either man on their past statements about each other.

  • bobcarp

    I’m a fan of Smok’n Joe, and I thought he showed class in the face of being called gorilla and other demeaning things by Mohammad Ali, but I think some of the blows Joe received are clouding his view of reality as well…

  • bombastic-fae

    just wanted to shared that Muhammad Ali on MANY occasions (after having parkinsons) has himself said that God gave him parkinsons for the exact reason Frazier said….that is because God wanted to show that only “God is the greatest”. Frazier said nothing that Ali himself didn’t say.

  • Karen

    Yes, because one Christian made a ridiculous statement let us go after all Christians. That makes so much sense. NOT

  • Siamang

    To be fair, Karen, you have to admit this isn’t the first Christian to make a ridiculous statement asserting that their enemies suffer God’s wrath.

    It’s kind of part and parcel with religion, and that’s what we’re objecting to.

  • GullWatcher

    Gosh, Karen, thanks for the totally misplaced rebuke. NOT.

    Nobody went after “all Christians” here. We went after religion and how it makes people say stupid things. Your comments show you to be just another Christian wallowing in your martyr complex. I have news – you are NOT part of a persecuted minority. Get over it. Get over yourself.

    I think the fact that Ali said it about himself is one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard about him.

  • michael

    i grew up worshipping both of these guys. ali did go overboard with some of his comments, but frazier is very bitter after all these years. they should both understand that they were a major part of each others history and between them made sporting and cultural history. love to them both.

  • ryan madya

    It’s not about islam or christian. Joe frazier was hate muhammad ali just because ali is rich now…and he wasn’t. He talk about god gave muhammad ali parkinson…what’s wrong with parkinson ? Everybody get parkinson, and it’s not weird to get that ill…michael j fox ?? He is christian..and he got parkinson. This is not about religion. We talk about sport, boxing. And boxing is about winning…not soft talk. What ali did to joe is normal as a fighter….but, what was ali did more great when he was won the fight….he said apologize to joe. He’s the greatest ! In islam, quran teach us to beaing 1st saying apologize to someone is better that the forgiving one. So ??

  • RayT

    I love Ali. He is like an uncle who I never met. That said, the things he said about Frazier were over the top. Frazier said it wasn’t the punches that hurt him but the words.

    I think Frazier’s remarks show the hurt he still has and I can’t say I blame him. I actually feel sorry for it because in truth, both him and Ali are one of the greatest fighters of all time. Both are genuinely good people in the ring and out.

  • Joe S

    I’m a Christian and I have Parkinson’s. God didn’t cause it to happen, but He may have allowed it to happen. I was too judgemental, with no grace and mercy towards others. I was to boastful and proud. I believe that God removed his protection against the disease so that I would learn to be more humble and filled with love, be gracious to others, and more forgiving. I think it is working. Who knows maybe someday He will heal me.

  • kc

    I am a born again christian 2002- i was diagnosed with P.D. in 2008

    i attribute no direct connection between the two
    I still love this life – just more slowly
    I also love science – the study of our ( IMO-God made) perfections and imperfections (you know like hatred and intolerance)
    BTW – many atheists and theists think and say silly things-but i enjoy reading all your comments

  • BallzOfSteel

    Ali was a racist douchebag to Frazier, he called him a gorilla, an uncle tom, called him an inferior negro and promoted segregation. I think what frazier is saying is sorry that happened to you… u shouldnt have been such a douche.

  • Mark

    Joe Frazier now has liver cancer…

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