Thriller with vanilla: Ali to launch health foods

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The Independent US

Muhammad Ali, the boxing legend who was once equipped with the quickest fists and the fastest quips, has found a new role for his rumble, shuffle and jab.

The 65-year-old, who is suffering from Parkinson's disease, has teamed up with the confectionery giant Mars to market a new line of snacks designed to help combat obesity among young people.

The three-times former heavyweight champion has formed a new company - Goat Foods, an acronym of "greatest of all time" - to introduce the range of reduced-calorie snacks and drinks.

His fruit-filled rolls and baked chips will bear names such as rumble, shuffle and jabs, though there are no plans as yet to introduce a rope-a-dope snack bar.

"It is time to pass on the values, beliefs and principles that made me a champ to the next generation of champions," Ali said in a statement. "I believe that better nutrition and respect for the mind and body will give everybody today the opportunity to rise above and be the best they can be."

Precisely how involved in the project the now unsteady former boxer will be is unclear, though analysts have estimated it could earn him $1.5m (£800,000) a year. But his spokeswoman and fourth wife, Lonnie Ali, told The New York Times: "What Muhammad is working on is his legacy. How are people going to remember him? Muhammad says we should all be in a race to do good." She said the former champion, who retired as "The Greatest" in 1981, was genuinely concerned about obesity, which affects one in three American youngsters. She said the fact that Ali's 15-year-old son, Sadi, was over-weight was a cause of constant concern for him. "Let me tell you how this troubles him," she said. "Everyday he asks me: 'Does Sadi weigh more than me?'"

This deal is the first time Ali has created a brand based on his identity, though he is currently involved with adidas and Apple computers and his image has appeared in their marketing promotions.

The idea of involving Ali in the range of snacks appears to have come from the businessman Peter Arnell, reported to be a long-time friend. He approached Ali two years ago when he learnt that Mars Inc was trying to develop tasty but low-fat food for young people.

Mr Arnell said Ali had been involved in the development of the project and had approved every aspect of its creation and marketing. He apparently expressed concern over a marketing slogan that planned to say the fight against obesity would be Ali's "greatest fight". Ali's wife said the former boxer considered his struggle with Parkinson's to be his greatest fight. As a result, the words were changed.