HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Boxing great Muhammad Ali is receiving treatments from a doctor who believes the former champion's slurred speech and tremors stem from exposure to a household pesticide.
Ali, 46, arrived at Hilton Head Hospital earlier this week for the first in a series of blood-cleansing treatments supervised by Dr. Rajko Medenica, an immunologist who specializes in treating cancer and blood disorders.
Ali appeared in fine spirits Wednesday after the initial eight-hour treatment.
'I feel like I can fight (heavyweight champion Mike) Tyson,' Ali said in a hoarse voice, throwing jabs at an imaginary opponent in a hospital waiting room.
Always the showman, Ali performed magic tricks, signed autographs and posed for pictures with the hospital staff.
The blood-cleansing treatment, called 'plasmapheresis,' involves removal of plasma, the liquid part of the blood. The plasma is then replaced with an artificial product prepared by Medenica.
Ali has been diagnosed as having Parkinson's syndrome, perhaps triggered by blows to the head during his long boxing career.
Medenica disagrees, saying he believes Ali's condition, which he calls the 'Muhammad Ali Syndrome,' was caused by household pesticide poisoning. He said the pesticide probably affected Ali so severely because of the boxer's rapid metabolism when he was at peak physical condition.
Ali, who first met with the doctor in May, is expected to return for additional treatments about every three months. Medenica also has prescribed drug therapy.
'My goal is to remove the circulating toxins,' Medenica told the Columbia (S.C.) State. 'By the end of the year, he should be much better.'
Ali's wife, Lonnie, said other than slurred speech, her husband is doing better than many people realize.
'He feels no pain. He's never sick. There is no hard part living with Muhammad,' she said. 'There is nothing special I have to do for him, except make sure he takes his medication.'
She said Ali's condition worsens when he does not take his medication, and when he is tired.
The Alis said they heard of Medenica through Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C. Medenica, who has had a hand in treating several world figures, including the late Shah of Iran, is the latest of several doctors Ali has turned to in recent years.
'Knowing Dr. Medenica, you couldn't go anywhere else, because there is only one Medenica,' Lonnie Ali said.
Ali, who has long referred to himself as 'The Greatest,' called Medenica the greatest doctor in the world.
'He's got methods I've never seen before,' Ali said.