Maryum 'May May' Ali daughter of Muhammad Ali

May 7, 2024 / Muslim News Magazine

Historic Training Camp Built by Muhammad Ali Still Honors His Legacy; Daughter 'May May' Visits

(Los Angeles, CA) – On a few acres of mountaintop in northeastern Pennsylvania, far from the big city lights that normally would be associated with the “sweet science”, sits a very important site in the history of boxing. Here Muhammad Ali, arguably the greatest fighter of all time, built a training camp near Deer Lake. He called it “Fighter’s Heaven” and trained here for many of his epic battles.

Muhammad Ali first came to Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania in the early 1970’s to train at Pollack’s Mink Farm in Deer Lake. Bernie Pollack, who was involved in the fight game, was introduced to Ali by Gene Kilroy, a local native and prominent member of the Champ’s entourage. Ali liked the area and purchased the land up Sculps Hill Road in 1972, where he proceeded to build the training camp of his dreams. Ali, himself, hiked the land determining what exactly should be built and where.

Muhammad Ali’s daughter Maryum 'May May' Ali,  who spent much time there as a child during her father’s training camps, paid a recent visit to Deer Lake. She hadn’t been back there since she was a teenager in the early 1980’s.

In 2024, Maryum released the 20th anniversary edition of her children’s book, “I Shook Up the World: The Incredible Life of Muhammad Ali”, published by Simon & Schuster.  She was in New York City to participate in the Parkinson’s Unity Walk, an event she has been involved with for over twenty years. Before heading home, she decided to take a nostalgic visit her father’s restored Deer Lake Training Camp and see the memories it still offers today. 

Muhammad Ali trained at Deer Lake until his last fight in 1981. He built a large log gym, dining hall, bunkhouses for sparring partners, a small mosque where he would pray daily, and small individual cabins for members of his staff and also for the many special guests that always seemed to show up. In a courtyard situated near the gym and the dining hall, a huge outdoor stone fireplace was built that became a favorite gathering spot for camp residents and visitors alike. Staff members would gather here at night with a roaring fire, stars filling the clear night sky, to enjoy the special camaraderie they shared. Many people associated with Ali recall that their fondest memories were the times spent at Deer Lake.

“We enjoyed hearing her stories of time spent here when she was a child”, said Mick Stefanek, Camp Manager. “She was very impressed with how the Camp has been restored to the way she remembered it”.

During her visit Maryum was able to speak by phone with owner Mike Madden in California and expressed how thrilled and appreciative she is in how Fighter’s Heaven is keeping her father’s legacy alive Fighter’s Heaven opened this past weekend for the the 2024 season.

The historic Deer Lake Training Camp site is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and weekdays by appointment. To make appointments call (570) 968-2961 or email: info@fightersheaven.com  Photos Submitted by Fighter's Heaven 

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