Sonji Roi was the ex-wife of Muhammad Ali, the legendary boxer.
Also known as Mrs. Sonji Clay, she was the first wife of Ali. In his lifetime, Ali had married four women.
Sonji Roi was born in 1946, and she got married to Muhammad Ali in 1964.
The story of how Sonji Roi and the boxer met and fell in love is a perfect example of love at first sight.
Ali had proposed to Sonji on their very first date. She accepted his proposal.
After he popped the question, the two got married in just a month. But unfortunately, the marriage did not last very long.
The couple split up after being married for less than two years.
Sonji had worked as a model, a cocktail waitress, and a singer in her career.
She died in 2005 because of a heart attack.
Stick around to know more about Sonji Roi—her life with Ali, career, marriages, divorces, kids, etc.
|October 11, 2005
|Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
|Age (At the time of death)
|Waitress, Model, Singer
|Muhammad Ali, Reynaldo Grover
|Brian Reynaldo Jr., Herman Griffin
|Muhammad Ali’s Merch
|Signed Glove, Becoming Muhammad Ali, The Greatest: My Own Story
Sonji Roi: Also Known As Mrs. Sonji Clay
The boxer’s changed their name from Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. After he changed his religion to Muslim, he was known as Muhammad Ali.
When Ali married Sonji, he had not changed his religion. He was still known as Cassius Clay. So after their marriage, Sonji Roi was popularly known as Mrs. Sonji Clay.
Muhammad Ali: The Legendary Boxer
Muhammad Ali, formerly Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., was a legendary boxer known for his self-confidence, determination, and philanthropy.
Ali was born in Lousiville, Kentucky, on January 17, 1942.
He won the heavyweight championship in his boxing career.
Similarly, Ali was the youngest boxer to do so in history.
With a net worth of $50 million, Muhammad Ali was one of the highest-paid athletes during his time. He is also known as “The Greatest.”
In his lifetime, Ali married four women. His first wife was Sonji Roi. Ali was 22 years old when he met Roi.
Sonji Roi: Life With Muhammad Ali
Roi met Muhammad Ali in July 1964—the same year when Ali had won his first heavyweight championship. Sonji was a cocktail waitress when they met for the first time.
The couple met through Ali’s manager, Herbert Muhammad. Ali was 22, and Sonji was 18 years old when they met.
There was an instant attraction when Sonji and Ali met each other for the first time. Soon, the attraction turned into love.
Here’s a picture of Sonji with Ali, the day before they got married:
The couple’s first date turned into their engagement night as Ali proposed to Sonji on the same night. She said yes.
The engagement period was very short—only 41 days—as they married on August 14, 1964.
The Short-Lived Marriage of Sonji Roi and Muhammad Ali
An instant attraction, a proposal on the first date, and a quick wedding—all turned out to be for nothing.
The marriage of Sonji Roi and Muhammad Ali did not last very long.
On January 10, 1966, the couple split up after being married for just over a year.
Among the four marriages in Ali’s life, this was his shortest.
Sonji and Ali did not have any kids together.
But Ali had nine children with his other three wives.
After their marriage, Ali had decided to change his religion to Muslim. And because of this, their marriage came to an end.
The couple debated over the situation. Ali wanted Sonji to change her religion too. But she was not up for it. She refused to do so.
The whole situation turned into a conflict. Ali’s rising devotion to the Nation of Islam was its reason.
“I wasn’t going to take on all the Muslims. If I had, I probably would have ended up dead.”
But, Sonji found it difficult to take up the Islam culture, including the dresses for women. She was not fond of the Islamic traditions as well.
Muhammad Ali: “You Traded Heaven For Hell, Baby”
Sonji Roi liked dressing up in revealing clothes and wanted to go to bars.
However, because the Islam culture did not support it, Ali was against her behavior. He even said to her:
“You traded heaven for hell, baby.”
Muhammad Ali’s brother Rahman Ali said that Ali truly loved Sonji.
But because of Ali’s devotion towards the Nation of Islam, the couple’s marriage had to end.
Rahman also said that Ali never got over it.
Sonji Roi: A Strong, Independent Woman
Sonji Roi’s friends said that she was a strong, independent woman. She had worked her way up in her career.
Her friends also said that she was kind and spirited. She was not very submissive. Because of this nature, she was not ready to change herself for Ali.
Sonji Roi: Career as A Model, Waitress, Singer & Actress
Sonji Roi worked on several jobs before she met Muhammad Ali. Her parents died in her childhood. So, she had to take responsibility and look after herself.
Sonji used to waitress at nightclubs to make her living.
She met Ali at one of the nightclubs where she used to work.
She had also done modeling in the past. It was also why she liked dressing up, putting on makeup, and going to bars.
After splitting up with Ali, she began her career as a singer.
She had a lovely voice. It was calm and very soothing.
But unfortunately, her singing career was also short-lived.
Here I Am And Here I’II Stay
People knew her as Sonji Clay when she began her singing career. One of her most popular songs is Here I am, and here I stay.
She wrote this song from the inspiration of her marriage to Ali.
I Can’t-Wait (Until I Can See My Baby’s Face)
Another of Sonji’s famous songs was I can’t wait (Until I can see my baby’s face).
She had a short singing career. She did not find much popularity as a singer with only a few singles.
The strong independent Sonji is also known for acting in shows like The Mike Douglas Show and The Merv Griffin Show.
Likewise, she appeared in both of the shows in 1966.
Similarly, she also featured in the 1996 documentary Muhammad Ali: The Whole Story.
Sonji Roi: Second Marriage, Kids, and Another Divorce
Sonji Roi moved back to Chicago from Miami after she had split up with Muhammad Ali.
She met Reynaldo Grover, a corporate lawyer, and business advisor.
Sonji got married to Reynaldo after they had dated for a while.
They fell in love. The couple even had a son together: Brian Reynaldo Jr.
But sadly, Sonji’s second marriage also came to an end.
After two failed marriages, she never married again in her life.
She had another son named Herman Griffin from a different relationship. His biological father is unknown to the world.
Sonji’s second husband, Reynaldo Grover, remarried and gave birth to three children—two sons and a daughter.
Reynaldo died in 2007 due to pancreatic cancer. He was 64 years old.
Ali (2001): A Biographical Sports Drama Based on Muhammad Ali’s Life
In 2001, Michael Mann had written, produced, and directed a biographical movie based on Muhammad Ali’s life. The movie was called Ali.
Jada Pinkett Smith played Sonji Roi’s character in the movie, and Will Smith played Muhammad Ali’s character.
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith are real-life husbands and wives.
Sonji Roi: Net Worth
The net worth of Sonji Roi is unknown.
Her life and career after she divorced Grover remained hidden from the world.
Sonji Roi: Social Media
Sonji Roi was also not active on any social media platforms.
There are no public accounts in her name. We only found a few archival photos of her with Ali on Twitter and Instagram.
Sonji Roi: Death
The events after Sonji’s second divorce are unknown.
She stayed away from the spotlight. But, after she took her last breath, the world had heard about her.
On October 11, 2005, Sonji was at her home in Chicago, Illinois.
Unfortunately, she was found dead at her home. She was 59 years old at the time.
The doctors did not perform an autopsy of her death as they believed that she had died of natural causes. And her nephew said that she had had a heart attack.
The real reason for her death is unknown to the world.
A decade after Sonji’s death, on June 3, 2016, Muhammad Ali died from septic shock. He was 74 years old.
Sonji Roi: FAQs
What happened to Muhammad Ali’s first wife, Sonji Roi?
After splitting up with Muhammad Ali, Sonji Roi married a lawyer and businessman named Reynaldo Grover.
What was Sonji Roi’s cause of death?
The doctors believe that she had died of natural causes. And her nephew said that she might have had a heart attack.
What was Sonji Roi’s age at the time of death?
Sonji Roi was 59 years old when she died.
Additionally, she died on October 11, 2005, in Chicago, Illinois.
What was Sonji Roi’s religion?
Sonji Roi was a Christian. Muhammad Ali wanted her to change to Muslim, just like he did. But she refused to do so. Because of this, their marriage ended.
Who are the children of Sonji Roi?
Sonji Roi had two sons named Herman Griffin and Reynaldo Jr.