Muhammad Ali hospitalized with 'mild' pneumonia

Louisville (AFP) - Boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who has suffered from Parkinson's Disease for three decades, was in stable condition after being hospitalized with a "mild" case of pneumonia, his spokesman said late Saturday.

The 72-year-old Ali was admitted Saturday and is not expected to remain in the hospital long, Bob Gunnell said.

"He was admitted earlier this morning and because the pneumonia was caught early, his prognosis is good with a short hospital stay expected," Gunnell said.

Pneumonia can be a dangerous complication of Parkinson's, the debilitating neurological condition Ali has suffered from since about 1984.

Parkinson's causes shaking, balance problems and general loss of muscle control.

Ali's doctor Abraham Lieberman warned in November that Parkinson's can be deadly because it makes sufferers susceptible to falling or if people with the disease have trouble swallowing and then develop pneumonia.

During the interview with the BBC, Lieberman said Ali did not have trouble swallowing.

Gunnell said Ali was being treated by a "team of doctors" but did not go into detail or say where Ali was admitted.

In recent years, Ali has made fewer public appearances as Parkinson's has increasingly taken its toll.

He was seen in September when he attended the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards in Louisville, Kentucky where Ali was born and where he keeps a home.

Ali had a storied career as a professional boxer from 1960 to 1981.

He dazzled the boxing world with slick moves in the ring and enamored the public with his wit and engaging personality.

He beat George Foreman in one of the greatest fights of all time dubbed "The Rumble in The Jungle", held in 1974 in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Ali also had a thrilling rivalry with heavyweight Joe Frazier that saw the two men slug it out in the ring and verbally spar out of it.

Ali was rarely afraid to spark political controversy, and his heyday coincided with the US civil rights movement and the Vietnam War.

He converted to Islam in 1964, changing his name from Cassius Clay. Ali refused to join the armed forces in 1967 on religious grounds.

After his refusal he was convicted of draft dodging and banned from boxing for years. In 1971 the US Supreme Court overturned the conviction.

It has been claimed that the head shots the boxing great took in the ring during his 21-year career contributed to his disease.

But Lieberman said in November he could not be sure if there was a connection between the effect of the punches and the disease.

Ali has been given dozens of nods to his stature as a global icon, lighting the Olympic torch in 1996 and being named a UN messenger of peace in 1998.

He received the US's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

In addition to Kentucky, he also lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.