The world is mourning the loss of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who passed away Friday at the age of 74 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. “Extra’s” own Mario Lopez, a boxer himself, is just one of the many celebrities remembering the former heavyweight champion. He recently spoke exclusively with famed coach Freddie Roach and Robert Shapiro at Roach’s Wild Card Boxing gym.
Mario mourned the loss, saying, “I grew up watching fights with my dad and my grandfather, it’s some of the best memories I have and I’m immersed into the sport of boxing... There’s only one guy they call the greatest, now what he did inside the ring speaks for himself, but what he did when he took the gloves off is what is really going to be remembered. I remember I actually got to spend some time with him and he called me over, gave me a little shot in the ribs and whispered to me, 'Protect yourself at all times.'”
During his boxing days, Ali worked out at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym, where Mario trains. Freddie, who also suffers from Parkinson’s disease, opened up about the illness with Ali in the past. “A lot of the time, he wouldn't take his medication and he'd shake a lot more and I asked him about that when he was here and he told me it makes you sick and it's really not worth taking sometimes; they’ve come up with better medications now.”
Freddie also reflected on the one day Ali worked out in his ring for four hours, saying, “He flirted with all the girls, he joked around with the boys… he did magic tricks… It was a great day… I got to really know a different guy…” An avid Frazier fan,Freddie became an Ali fan that day.
Freddie revealed people used to ask him who he thought would win between [Mike] Tyson and Ali. He shared, “Ali would win the fight before the fight happened because he would get inside Tyson’s head.”
Along with Freddie, Mario spoke with famed O.J. attorney and boxing aficionado Robert Shapiro shortly after the news of Ali’s death broke. Shapiro commented, “Deeply saddened; he was obviously one of my heroes.”
Shapiro was lucky enough to attend the champ’s 50th birthday party. “He gave me something that was very unique, a Polaroid of himself and Elvis that he signed,” Shapiro said.
As for Ali’s legacy, Shapiro said, “He elevated the heavyweight championship to something more than athletics — he brought charisma, he brought charm, he brought excitement. Will there be another Ali? I don’t think so.”