Inspired by Ali, Parkinson's patients in Chicago box to combat disease

Mohammed Ali was remembered Monday by a small group of Chicagoans who are connected to the former champ through his Parkinson’s disease, and his boxing. 

Seven Parkinson's disease patients had a poetic tribute to Muhammed Ali: “Float like a butterfly, sting a bee, I got Parkinson's, it ain't got me."

That's how the Rock Steady Boxing Windy City classes began Monday. Participants in the classes are battling their degenerative movement disorder by working out twice a week, as boxers.

“We focus on balance, agility, strength, hand-eye coordination,” said co-founder Eric Johnson.

Johnson notes the irony that boxing, which contributed to Muhammed Ali's  Parkinson’s,  is  helping others with the same disease.

“We have found a route where non-contact boxing can actually help prevent the progression of Parkinson’s,” Johnson said.

Patients say the boxing workouts give them more than just physical benefits. They also get the chance to work off a little bit of their aggression.

“It's a wonderful way to release energy in a non-dangerous manner. You don't get hit. You get to hit other people,” said patient Harvey Popolow.

Retired CPA Steve Goldrich says the workouts have helped with his tendency to fall while walking. 

“It's helped me deal with the falling aspect and it encourages me to slow down and speak louder, which is also difficult,” said Goldrich.

Participants also told FOX 32 that they look forward to socializing with other Parkinson’s patients.

“The people are nice and there's nice camaraderie. It helps to be in a group like this where they sort of spur you to keep you going,” said patient Richard Younkers.

As for Ali, some, like Leah Rogers, said they had followed his battle with Parkinson’s..

“I think that's just amazing, that he spent thirty five  years battling this,” said patient Leah Rogers.

While others said they appreciated Ali's battles before he ever became ill.

“He really, he walked the walk. When he gave up boxing, he gave it up for personal religious beliefs, and he never wavered from that. It’s pretty amazing,” Popolow said.