WASHINGTON - Boxing legend M Ali’s daughter has scotched rumours of her father being near death.

“He’s fine, in fact he was talking well this morning,” May May Ali said in New Orleans, Louisiana, according to US media reports. “These rumours pop up every once in a while but there’s nothing to them.”

The family later posted a photo on Twitter of Ali sitting in a chair. The rumours were started by a report in The Sun, a British tabloid, quoting Ali’s brother, Rahman, as saying the former heavyweight champion was near death.

Rahman, though, said he had not seen his brother since last summer and had no contact with the family. The Sun wrote: “My brother can’t speak, he doesn’t recognize me. He’s in a bad way. He’s very sick. It could be months, it could be days. I don’t know if he’ll last the summer. He’s in God’s hands. We hope he gently passes away. He told me before he got really bad that he’s in no pain. He grabbed my arm and whispered, ‘Rah, I’ve achieved everything I’ve ever wanted to accomplish.

Don’t cry for me, I’m in no pain.’ It’s best he goes now. The longer he goes on, so does his suffering and misery.”

The report was widely repeated on the Internet, drawing expressions of condolence on Twitter and Facebook. Ali won gold at the 1960 Olympics and, after turning professional, went on to become a three-time world champion. He had several famous fights during his career, including 1974’s Rumble in the Jungle with George Foreman and the Thrilla in Manila against Joe Frazier the following year.

Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984 but remained active for many years. He memorably lit the Olympic flame in Atlanta 1996 and attended the opening ceremony of last year’s London Olympics.