EXCLUSIVE: Freddie Prinze Jr. Says His Late Father 'Loved Being Around' Muhammad Ali: 'He Was a Special Person
By Alex Ungerman
Freddie Prinze Jr. says his late father and Muhammad Ali formed a bond over a bloody nose.
The 40-year-old actor shared a story with ET's Jennifer Peros -- while promoting his first cookbook, Back to the Kitchen -- about the venerated boxer, who died over the weekend at age 74 following a decades-long battle with Parkinson's disease, that he hopes might help people "know the type of human he was, and type of effect he had on people."
"My dad and Ali were great friends. He used to go to Ali's house a lot, and Ali would beat him up," he said of his father’s bond with The Champ. "They would spar and Ali would just pepper him, just, 'Pop-pop-pop-pop-pop!' with that brutal left jab, and my dad would come home with a swollen face and bloody nose all the time."
But the day his dad landed a hook of his own, Prinze Jr. said, is the day his family would get an heirloom the actor cherishes to this day.
"My dad's fooling around with Ali one day, and he cracks Ali in the nose with a left hook, and Ali falls on his couch and he gets a bloody nose," he recalled. "My dad runs to the bathroom, gets a towel, wipes the blood off Ali's face, hauls ass out of his house as quick as he can, and gets in his '75 metallic blue Corvette Stingray.”
"He hauled home, brought the towel back and framed it," the actor continued. "I think it says 'June 19, 1975 -- Ali's Blood.' And it's framed like you thought he won a war medal. It's on purple crushed velour behind it, it's amazing. It's framed and it's beautiful."
"My dad just loved being around him," Prinze Jr. said. "And it wasn't because he was the greatest of all time, it was because he was a really special person."
Of course, the 40-year-old actor's father tragically died in 1977, before Prinze Jr.'s first birthday. Prinze Sr. was just 22 years old.
Loss is something the actor has dealt with often in his life, including the deaths of Robin Williams and Paul Walker, both of whom he considered close friends. Walker co-starred with Prinze Jr. in his breakthrough role, 1999 rom com She’s All That, while Williams co-starred alongside the actor’s wife, Sarah Michelle Gellar on the CBS sitcom The Crazy Ones.
"[Williams and I] always talked about having this dinner, and the types of foods that he liked, and the types of foods that I love to create," Prinze Jr. revealed. "The same with Paul, you know, we'd always say he was better at Jiu Jitsu then I am and we would always talk about rolling and, 'Next week, yeah next week, yeah next week...'"
Walker died in 2013, and Williams the following year. Prinze Jr. says in his cookbook that their deaths remind him to make the most of the time you have with those you love.
"We never got to have that meal," he told ET. "I tried to be very honest and open in the cookbook with those types of stories, just reminding people -- that person you want to have dinner with but you're like, 'I don't wanna drive an hour,' drive the hour it's worth it."
"Those memories get to last with you forever," he added. "I would rather remember Robin as the Robin who made me laugh, and my daughter calling him 'Uncle Genie,' than the thought that I do get to have, which is, 'Man, I wish we would have had that meal.'"
"Now I stay in much closer touch with the few actor friends that I have," he said. "I try to make sure we stay in touch."
Prinze Jr.'s cookbook, Back to the Kitchen: 75 Delicious, Real Recipes (& True Stories) from a Food-Obsessed Actor, is out June 7.