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Ali may be part of big surprise

A major announcement is scheduled at Larry Ruvo‘s Alzheimer’s fundraiser tonight, and there are rumblings that boxing icon Muhammad Ali will be in the thick of it.

Ruvo has been promising a big surprise at the end of the charity gala, which benefits the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute. Lou Ruvo, Larry’s father, died from Alzheimer’s.

Let’s connect some dots: Larry Ruvo reportedly has been hosting a team of top Parkinson’s specialists this week. Ali has been battling Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the central nervous system.

It was in Las Vegas, during his second-to-last fight, that the first signs emerged that Ali was suffering from a neurological disorder. He was fighting heavyweight champ Larry Holmes on Oct. 2, 1980.

That was the last of his seven fights in Las Vegas.

Ali is attending the event because of his close friendship with Bernie Yuman, longtime manager of Siegfried & Roy. Yuman became Ali’s manager about eight years ago. They’ve been friends since 1962, when they met while jogging on a golf course in Miami.

“I was 13 and training for Pop Warner football,” Yuman said Friday. “I ran up next to him, and he looked out of the corner of his eye.”

They hit it off, and Ali gave Yuman a ride back to his house on a Vespa motorbike, a sight that shocked Yuman’s father.

Ali invited Yuman to watch him train at his gym, and “there has been no interruption in our friendship since,” Yuman said.

Thirty years ago next week, when upstart Leon Spinks shocked the boxing world with a 15-round decision over Ali at the Las Vegas Hilton, Yuman recalls taking Ali backstage to see Siegfried & Roy at the Stardust.

“During that time, I brought James Brown to the Hacienda, and I took Muhammad to see his show,” Yuman said.

MEDIA UPDATE

CBS Radio layoffs hit the local market last week, with a handful of employees getting pink slips. No on-air talent was let go, but Craig Powers, program director at KKJJ-FM, 100.3 (Jack), was among the layoffs. …

Gina Cancielliere returns from maternity leave to her weather job at KLAS-TV, Channel 8 on a part-time basis in March. She and husband Vivek Srinarayana had their first child, a girl, on Dec. 30. She’ll go full time in April. She has been the station’s lead meteorologist since August 2006.

THE SCENE AND HEARD

There may be more than a sighting of Michael Jackson at the Grammys on Sunday. FoxNews.com columnist Roger Friedman says he’s hearing that Jackson has been secretly rehearsing at a Burbank studio. He says Justin Timberlake will open the show with a digital duet with Frank Sinatra, and Jackson will follow with a hit from “Thriller.” If it happens and Jackson wows ’em, expect another wave of comeback speculation. Jackson has been living in a Palms suite for several months.

SIGHTINGS

Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon, dining Thursday at Fix (Bellagio). … Tony Danza, checking out Caramel lounge (Bellagio) on Thursday with members of “The Producers” cast. … Former boxing champs Mike Tyson and Tommy “Hit Man” Hearns, dining at the Luxor Steakhouse on Thursday with Luxor casino host Gene Kilroy, a longtime member of Ali’s entourage.

THE PUNCH LINE

“Wants to devote more time to rap persona P. Mitty.” — From David Letterman‘s Top Ten Reasons Mitt Romney Dropped Out of the Presidential Race

Norm Clarke can be reached at (702) 383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find additional sightings and more online at www.normclarke.com.

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