Muhammad Ali generally liked most celebrities but one who rubbed the champ the wrong way was Frank Sinatra.
Sinatra once called Ali to invite him to some kind of promotional event in Los Angeles in the 1980’s but Ali did not accept, opting instead to spend the evening with some friends.
Tim Shanahan wrote in his book “Running With The Champ” that Sinatra had tried many times to get close to Ali but the two icons never became pals. Shanahan met Ali in Chicago in the mid 1970’s and the two shared a friendship for decades.
According to Shanahan on page 215 of his book, Ali’s “antipathy” towards Sinatra “stemmed from an incident after he fought and defeated Floyd Patterson in their 1965 Las Vegas matchup. Sinatra had been a vocal supporter of Patterson’s before the fight and Floyd was in Sinatra’s suite after the fight. Muhammad had been invited to the suite also but when he arrived he didn’t see Sintra at first. Instead, he saw Floyd, sitting with his trainer at the bar and being ignored by everyone else. Muhammad approached Floyd to offer some friendly words, but Sinatra quickly appeared to congratulate him and steer him away from Floyd – the fighter who just the night before had been “his man.” Muhammad was really bothered by the humiliating treatment Floyd was being subjected to, and he thought Sinatra was arrogant – a trait Ali couldn’t stand in anyone. Muhammad never forgave Sinatra for that.
Tim Shanahan met Muhammad Ali in 1975. He was a medical instruments salesman living in Chicago, who also worked with a charity that arranged for pro athletes to speak to underprivileged kids. Shanahan had learned Ali, at the height of his career and popularity, was moving to Chicago in 1975 and managed to contact and then persuade Ali to participate in his charity program and the two became fast friends, running partners, trusted confidants, travel companions – sometimes Ali even would introduce Shanaham to strangers as his “cousin.”
“Running With The Champ” shares countless insightful anecdotes about Ali, including encounters/friendships with Elvis, John Travolta, Bill Cosby, and Michael Jackson. It’s one of the best books you will ever read about Muhammad Ali.
(Frank Sinatra painting by LeRoy Neiman.)