Daughter of local boxer remembers rare connection to boxing great Muhammad Ali

Memorabilia in a Midlothian home pays tribute to the life of Muhammad Ali before he was Muhammad Ali.
 
"My dad never really talked about it a lot. He just was very humble." Growing up, Rhonda White knew her dad, Donnie Fleeman, boxed while in the Air Force. His professional boxing career began in 1955. She knew the details of his 45th fight, his final fight, in Miami in 1961. Fleeman went into it with two fractured ribs, motivated by the $3,000 prize. His opponent -- an inexperienced 19-year-old.
 
"He thought this would be an easy way of going out." Seven rounds later, Donnie Fleeman lost to the man who would later say, "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee," Cassius Clay, who became Muhammad Ali.
 
"He goes, 'God, his arms were long and fast. I thought I was a punching bag."
 
"He knew that this young fighter, Cassius Clay, was going to be someone to reckon with in the future. This was someone coming with great skill already at his young age."
 
She's kept her father's trunks and gloves from the fight, as well as the contract detailing much money the boxers would make. These keepsakes were stored in the family's garage for years. White took them out Saturday morning when she learned of Muhammad Ali's passing.
 
"I had a lot of mixed emotions this morning because it sort of brought back what my dad was going through at the end." Donnie Fleeman died at age 80, after suffering from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Muhammad Ali also had Parkinson's.
 
"The head trauma that they receive is just toxic."
 
"He was so proud of this book, especially his fight with Cassius Clay."
 
Before Fleeman died, his granddaughter, Hattie, made him this book to help him remember his life, including this fight -- by far his most memorable -- that time he swapped swings with one of the greatest heavyweights in history.
 
"Wow, Dad fought somebody that changed the world of boxing."
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