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Muhammad Ali talks man out of jumping

Muhammad Ali talks man out of jumping

Jan. 19, 1981: Muhammad Ali, right, leans from a window to talk with a man who was threatening to jump from the ninth floor of a Miracle Mile office building.

These photos by Boris Yaro appeared in the Jan. 20, 1981, Los Angeles Times. Yaro and staff writer Lee Harris reported:

Former boxing champion Muhammad Ali was credited Monday with saving the life of a disturbed man who perched for two hours on the ninth floor of a Miracle Mile office building, threatening to jump to his death.

“Ali did it all,” said a Los Angeles police spokesman. “He went up there and he talked to the guy until he came down. A police psychologist and a chaplain had tried–but Ali got it done.”

Officers said the incident began at about 2:20 p.m. when a young man wearing a hooded sweatshirt climbed out on a fire escape parapet on the ninth floor of a building at 5410 Wilshire Blvd., locked the door behind hm, and screamed that he was going to jump.

“The man was badly disturbed,” a police spokesman said. “Part of the time he was yelling that he was ‘crazy’ and ‘no good,’ part of the time, he seemed to think he was in Vietnam–with the Viet Cong coming at him…”

Fire Department rescue units and police were called, and a crowd began to form in the street below.

The police spokesman said officers, and later a psychologist and police chaplain, tried to talk to the man from a nearby window, but were unable to make headway.

“Every time someone got close,” the spokesman said, “the guy would stand up on the outer ledge beside the fire escape, or dangle his feet over. We were afraid if we tried to use a net or anything, he would go…”

The crowd began to chant “Go! Go!” and “Jump!”–and police finally cleared the street, blocking Wilshire Boulevard from Dunsmuir Avenue to La Brea Boulevard.

Then Ali arrived in a two-tone brown Rolls Royce.

“One of Ali’s field representatives had been in the area and asked us if the champ could be any help,” said Sgt. Bruce Hagerty, who commanded officers in the vicinity. “We said ‘Sure!’ So a few minutes later, there he was…”

Ali went to the nearest window on the ninth floor and began to talk to the man. “You’re my brother,” he said. “I love you and I couldn’t lie to you. You got to listen. I want you to come home with me, meet some friends of mine…”

A few breath-holding minutes later, the man opened the fire escape door and Ali walked out on the fire escape with him.

“He was still apprehensive,” said Hagerty. “It wasn’t a quick thing or an easy thing. Several times the champ put his arm around the guy, then took it away when the guy seemed to become apprehensive.”

And then, suddenly, it was over.

The man embraced Ali, relaxed–and began to weep.

Ali led him to safety.

Published caption: January 20, 1981--Suddenly it's over: a sympathetic Ali helps man from his perch. [Muhammad Ali.]

Jan. 19, 1981: Suddenly it’s over: A sympathetic Muhammad Ali helps a distraught man from his perch. Credit: Boris Yaro / Los Angeles Times.

A short follow-up story in the Jan. 22, 1981, Los Angeles Times reported:

Former boxing champion Muhammad Ali is fulfilling a promise to help find a future for the 21-year-old man he coaxed out of suicide.

Ali spent half an hour Monday afternoon persuading the man, identified only as “Joe” from Michigan, not to leap to his death from a ninth-floor ledge of an office building on Wilshire Boulevard. The man was taken to Veterans Hospital, Westwood, where he will remain under observation for at least two weeks.

Boxer Ali adopted an air of modesty when questioned about the incident Wednesday after a news conference he attended for a beverage company that is selling a decanter of Ali’s likeness.

He acknowledge that “we’re buying (Joe) some clothes; he’s got no clothes. And I’m helping him find a job through a company. I promised when I was talking to him that I would meet his family. So I am going to meet them.”

Ali visited the man in the hospital Tuesday.

Joe is a post-Vietnam era veteran and did not see combat, as initially reported, according to a hospital spokesman.


  1. June 4, 2016, 3:06 pm

    wow! RIP Champ. Your truly are the greatest – of all time.

    By: philzivnuska
  2. June 5, 2016, 7:57 am

    I love you so.much.
    .we in heaven..

    By: mir

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